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UN to be briefed on ‘mixed picture’ peace in Colombia

It was a bitter five-decade-long conflict that claimed 450,000 lives and forced millions of people from their homes.

For the past seven years, a ceasefire between the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has held.

But Colombia’s is a fragile peace.

Dissident armed groups still terrorise much of the countryside. Drug crime, kidnapping and people trafficking are rife.

Yet the Colombian peace agreement is seen inside the United Nations, tasked with monitoring its implementation, as a great success in the history of peace deals.

“Its only success,” one former senior UN negotiator, who preferred not to be named, said.

The UN was invited in by the Colombian government and FARC negotiators after the ceasefire.

The Secretary General said it was a “moral obligation” for the UN to ensure peace in Colombia.

In 2016 Security Council passed a resolution which would see the establishment of political mission to verify the laying down of weapons, the reintegration of ex-combatants into political and economic life and also guarantee their security.

The last aspect has proven the most challenging.

Mr Guterres called on armed forces in Colombia to ‘commit to deescalating violence’

More than 400 ex-combatants have been killed so far and many of the 13,700 former FARC fighters, registered under the peace deal, fear for their lives.

Earlier this week the UN Secretary General António Guterres called on all armed actors in Colombia to “commit to deescalating violence” across the country “including by reducing clashes among them,” to reassure Colombian society and the world of their commitment to reaching “peace through dialogue.”

Today, the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary General in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, is due to brief the Security Council in New York.

He will describe a “mixed picture” on the security situation.

While there were fewer attacks against public security forces and fewer civilians killed and wounded over the past year, violence persisted in many areas.

Tens of thousands of people continue to be forcibly displaced.

“Reaching a peace agreement is not easy,” the UN’s Special Representative, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, told RTÉ News.

“It’s useful to recall that the Colombian Final Peace Agreement signed in 2016 is possibly the last comprehensive peace agreement reached in the world over the past few years,” he said.

“This is certainly cause for celebration, also because it is an agreement with historic dimensions that established a road map for the country’s future,” Mr Massieu told RTÉ News.

Despite the serious challenges that remain, he said he believed peace could be consolidated in Colombia.

A fresh round of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) following a ceasefire last year, is also being monitored by the UN Mission.

It forms part of the Colombian government’s “Total Peace” strategy to include all armed groups.

Luis Manuel Diaz is consoled by his wife Cilenis Marulanda during a press conference after his abduction

But it was the ELN that kidnapped the father of Colombian and Liverpool football star Luis Díaz last October, sparking outrage across the country. The rebel group held Luis Manuel Díaz for twelve days before handing him over to United Nations and Catholic Church officials.

Despite setbacks, the Colombian peace process is a rare point of agreement for the bitterly divided Security Council where diplomats see it as a positive model for the UN to follow.

And it has the support of several other member states beyond the Council.

On a trip to Bogotá this week, Tánaiste Micheál Martin reiterated Ireland’s commitment to supporting Colombia’s peace.

Ireland, along with Norway, Switzerland and Venezuela, acts as guarantor to the peace process.

But seven years on from the first ceasefire, Colombia’s road to peace is still rocky.

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