Colombian army, FARC begin 'unprecedented' talks

Colombian Government handout showing delegations of FARC-EP (L) and Colombian Government meeting as part of peace talks in Havana on March 5, 2015 (AFP Photo/Omar Nieto) (PRESIDENCIA DE COLOMBIA/AFP)

Havana (AFP) - Colombian army generals met commanders from leftist guerrilla group FARC for the first time Thursday to begin work on a ceasefire proposal aimed at ending their five-decade conflict.

The meeting marks the first time that military commanders from both sides have sat down together to discuss an end to the guerrilla war.

Peace talks have been going on in Cuba for the past two years, but have thus far involved government and rebel negotiators, not military commanders.

"This is unprecedented," a diplomat following the peace process told AFP.

Six top army generals led by Major General Javier Florez sat down with FARC commanders for the first meeting of the "ceasefire subcommittee," which is tasked with finding a workable deal to end hostilities and disarm the rebels.

The subcommittee will not have a negotiating role but will present technical recommendations to both sides.

The military delegation arrived at the talks in Havana dressed in suits and ties. Both sides agreed at the outset of negotiations in November 2012 that participants would wear only civilian clothes.

The Colombian conflict has killed 220,000 people and uprooted more than five million since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was launched in 1964.

The peace talks have produced partial accords on several issues, but have yet to yield a final deal.

The FARC declared an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire on December 20, but President Juan Manuel Santos has rejected a bilateral ceasefire without a definitive peace deal.