COLOMBIA’S President Juan Manuel Santos announced a scaling-back of military operations against Marxist rebels on Sunday that stopped short of a full ceasefire.
Mr Santos made the announcement in a televised address just hours after his government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) had agreed to try to reduce the intensity of the civil war.
“It is not a bilateral ceasefire … we will not leave the Colombian people defenceless,” he said, stressing that the military would remain on alert.
The United Nations and the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) will monitor the agreement, which will be reviewed in four months. If both sides observe the semi-official truce, it will be extended.
The initiative is aimed at facilitating progress in Cuban-brokered talks on ending Colombia’s 50-year conflict.
“It’s time to step on the accelerator and that’s what we’re doing,” said Mr Santos.
Earlier this month, Farc announced a unilateral ceasefire, which is set to begin on July 20, after the government rejected its proposal for a bilateral armistice.
Last month saw fighting reach levels not seen since 2012, with dozens of troops and Farc guerillas killed.
“Colombians don’t understand why, while in Havana we talk about peace, in Colombia the attacks and deaths continue,” Mr Santos said. “(However) we are on the right path … peace is for everyone and peace is in everyone’s hands.
“We don’t want an end to hostilities which would last a couple of months, we want to end the war forever.”