UNITED NATIONS — After some delays, Colombia’s FARC rebels could begin disarming in the coming weeks and the laying down of weapons under the historic peace deal could be completed by early June, a UN envoy said on Wednesday.
Some 5,700 fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are to lay down their weapons under the agreement signed in November to end more than five decades of conflict in the South American country.
Jean Arnault told the Security Council that the main focus of the peace effort now was setting up 26 UN-monitored camps where the rebels will gather to hand over their weapons.
Once the camps are set up, this "will hopefully allow the arms laydown process to begin in the next few weeks", said Arnault, the head of the UN political mission in Colombia.
Colombia’s government and the rebel leadership are determined "to do everything possible to meet the original goal of the comprehensive laydown of weapons by early June," he added.
An amnesty law passed in late December cleared one of the hurdles in the way of disarmament, but Arnault cited logistical problems linked to the large number and remote locations of the camps among other issues.
About 350 of the 450 monitors serving in a UN peace mission have been deployed to oversee the laying down of weapons.
Construction has begun on one third of the camps while preparations are ongoing in another third, but the remainder face difficulties, said Arnault.
"We do share the perception that an overly protracted process and a loss of momentum would not be in anybody’s interest," the envoy said.
The UN mission was embroiled in controversy earlier this month when Colombian media broadcast videos of UN monitors dancing with FARC fighters at a New Year’s Eve party at a camp.
Four monitors were repatriated to their home countries over the incident.
Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, who holds the council presidency this month, said following closed-door talks on Colombia that "everyone has welcomed the swift action taken by the leadership to rectify the situation." — AFP