A member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas mans a checkpoint near the town of Toribio, in the Colombian department of Cauca.
Credit: Luis Robayo

The top negotiator for Colombia's leftist FARC rebel group said Monday he was confident the nearly 50-year armed conflict was "nearing an end."

"No one can doubt that we are making a real effort to achieve peace. That is why we are here in Havana," said Ivan Marquez, who is taking part in talks with the Colombian government in Cuba. "Wars are not eternal. We are certain that the five-decade long Colombian armed conflict is nearing and end."

The government has said it wants a peace accord agreed upon by November, but Marquez has warned against rushing into an agreement.

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"It is possible [to reach an agreement by November]," he said. "But to achieve peace you need time. A bad peace deal is worse than war."

The direct talks between the FARC rebel group and the Colombian government started in November of last year. Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle said the goal was to get the rebels to give up their guerrilla war and join the country's political process.

An agreement has already been reached on the top item of the negotiators' agenda, which involves rural development and land reform. Other items up for discussion include drug trafficking, the surrender of weapons and reparations for victims of the conflict.

The rebels' participation in politics will also be a topic of discussion starting on Monday.

Marquez said in order to make the institutional changes required for a foundation for peace, a constituent assembly was needed. He noted that this "would surround the [peace] agreement with legitimacy."

"No successor president would be able to say, 'I do not recognize these agreements.' It is very important for that reason."

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