UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council headed to Colombia on Wednesday to demonstrate its commitment to the peace agreement between the government and the country's largest rebel group and to promote efforts at reconciliation.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who is co-leading the visit, said council members want to listen to the parties and the people, and are going "with a message of encouragement to carry on implementing the peace agreement despite the challenges, and to keep going until every vestige of this conflict is in the past."
In January 2016, the Colombian government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia jointly asked the United Nations to monitor any cease-fire and disarmament process — a rare request to the U.N. for help.
In September, the Security Council authorized a mission made up of 450 observers and a number of civilians to oversee the laying down of arms by FARC guerrillas and other aspects of the agreement. The peace agreement was signed that month and formally signed Nov. 30.
Uruguay's U.N. ambassador, Elbio Rosselli, who is co-leading the visit, said that if many other parties to conflicts around the world asked the U.N. for help implementing a peace deal "it would be great."
More than 50 years of war in Colombia caused more than 220,000 deaths and displaced nearly 6 million people. An amnesty law covering most offenses committed by FARC fighters — a key step in implementing the peace deal — was adopted Dec. 28.
Rosselli told reporters that council members would spend Thursday in Bogota, where they schedule calls for meetings with President Juan Manuel Santos, government and legislative officials, civil society representatives and others. On Friday, the council plans to visit a site where rebels are handing over their weapons and meet with FARC representatives.
In early April, the U.N. envoy for Colombia, Jean Arnault, told the council that consolidating peace will be a long-term process but in the short-term it's key to lay the foundations by ensuring that the rebels lay down their arms and are reintegrated into society. He said the registration of arms that FARC combatants turned in at camps was almost completed and the next step was to collect weapons and unstable armaments in caches.