Northern Ireland delegation at Colombia peace talks

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image copyrightAFP
image captionPresident Juan Manuel Santos (left) and Farc leader Timochenko shook hands last month after a meeting facilitated by Raul Castro (centre)

A delegation from Northern Ireland is travelling to Cuba to provide support for peace talks between the Colombian government and the Farc rebel group.

The two sides in the decades-old conflict have been holding peace talks since 2012.

The Northern Ireland delegation includes the Rev Harold Good, Sinn Fein's Paul Maskey, the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson and the SDLP's Mark Durkan.

Two representatives from South Africa's ANC will also be attending.

The Northern Ireland delegation will share their experiences of the peace process, particularly the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Last month, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that he had given his negotiating team instructions to resolve the outstanding issues before 23 March 2016.

Since starting official peace talks in Havana in November 2012, the two sides have struck deals on land reform, political participation, illegal drugs and now transitional justice.

However, none of these agreements will come into force until both sides put their signatures to the final agreement.

image copyrightAFP
image captionFarc rebels have been fighting the government since 1964

An estimated 220,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the 1960s, and more than five million internally displaced. About 8,000 left-wing Farc rebels continue fighting.

Rev Harold Good was one of two independent witnesses, the other being Fr Alec Reid, who oversaw the decommissioning of IRA weapons, a vital part of the peace process.

Mr Durkan said he was "delighted to share any insights or experiences I have had that could in any way help efforts to achieve peace in Colombia.

"Trade union and human rights groups have been engaging with people here on a cross-party basis for a number of years," he added.

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