Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speaks about the current situation in Colombia at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC, February 3, 2016
Bogota (AFP) - Colombian lawmakers will meet beginning Tuesday to create zones where FARC rebels can turn over their arms, in anticipation of a peace deal that would end a half-century of conflict, sources said.
President Juan Manuel Santos has ordered Congress to convene in special sessions lasting from February 16 to March 16 as he closes in on a deal with FARC rebels, congressional sources told AFP on Thursday.
Santos issued a presidential decree summoning lawmakers in both legislative houses "to start discussions on a bill to allow the government to designate territorial zones where the FARC may assemble and lay down their arms after the agreements are signed," one congressional source said.
The government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have vowed to sign a peace deal by March 23 to end five decades of conflict that have left 220,000 people dead.
Santos's center-right coalition has a majority in Congress. It must pass a reform before it is able to demilitarize certain areas so the FARC can safely demobilize.
The disbanding and disarmament process is one of the most delicate points on the agenda of the peace talks, which began in 2012 and are being hosted by Cuba.
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.
The United Nations has agreed to send a political mission of unarmed observers to monitor disarmament and the transition to peace, at the request of both sides.
The FARC launched in the aftermath of a peasant uprising in 1964 and authorities estimate it currently has some 7,000 members.
The Colombian conflict has drawn in right-wing paramilitaries, drug traffickers and several leftist rebel groups, including FARC.