Colombia is in the final stages of striking a peace agreement with the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC that would end a 52-year conflict that has taken the lives of more than a quarter million, left 45,000 people missing, and displaced 6.8 million. At a recent meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged both sides to come to a final agreement. He stressed that the United States is "very committed to not just helping to achieve the document, but to helping achieve true peace in Colombia."
In a promising step, the Colombian government and FARC announced that they had reached an agreement to release child soldiers under 15 years of age from rebel custody and develop a “road map for an exit for the remaining minors,” those between 15 and 18.
The deal could eventually involve hundreds of children who were recruited to fight in Colombia’s long civil war, though no census of child solders has ever been taken.
“One of the biggest horrors of a conflict is when we drag our children and young people into combat,” said Humberto de la Calle, the chief Colombian government negotiator. “It’s for this reason that this agreement is a crucial advance in the process of bringing this war to a close.”
The United States, said Secretary Kerry, will continue to lend its support during the post-accord process. "Colombia will need help," he said, "in areas such as humanitarian demining. And we’re working with the president and with his team to define the details of the demining initiative, which we’re working on with Norway as co-chairs of that effort, also to help with the post-accord implementation, which will require significant global commitment."
President Santos expressed his gratitude to the United States for its "crucial support" in the peace process. "We hope that in the near future we can complete the [accord] and start building a true peace."
The United States remains deeply committed to helping Colombia begin a new chapter in its history, one of reconciliation and peace.