Colombia's FARC Vow Full End to Use of Child Soldiers

Colombia's FARC rebel force promised Wednesday to end recruitment of all child soldiers to its ranks, in a further bid to seal a peace deal ending a half-century conflict.

At peace talks in Cuba, the leftist guerilla group had already pledged to stop recruiting fighters under 17, but the Colombian government said that did not go far enough.

International authorities and rights groups define any member of a force aged under 18 as a child soldier.

"Today we communicate to the country our decision to end the recruitment of those aged under 18 to the FARC," a negotiator for the Marxist rebel force, Victoria Andino, said, reading out a statement.

The two sides have vowed to sign a peace deal by March 23 to end five decades of conflict that have left 220,000 people dead.

Wednesday's announcement appeared to be a gesture to ease negotiations by the FARC, whose leaders have warned in recent weeks of lingering obstacles to a peace deal.

The two sides have signed deals on four of the six agenda items at the talks: justice for victims, land reform, a political role for ex-rebels and fighting the drug trafficking that fuels the conflict.

The unsettled issues are disarmament and the mechanism by which the final accord will be ratified.

Disagreement remains over whether the peace deal should be put to a popular vote or passed by a constituent assembly as the FARC demands.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday a referendum would be held on a possible peace deal whether the rebels want a vote or not.

Source: Agence France Presse

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