Colombia's FARC rebels renounce recruitment of minors under 17

The FARC guerrilla group which rose up in 1964 has an estimated 8,000 fighters (AFP Photo/Luis Robayo)

Havana (AFP) - Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas pledged Thursday to stop recruiting children under 17 years old, increasing the age at which it inducts youths into its ranks from 15 to 17.

"The FARC ... has decided from now on not to incorporate minors under 17 years old into the ranks of the guerrillas, and expresses the wish to soon reach a peace accord with social justice," said the rebels' chief peace negotiator in ongoing talks with the government, Ivan Marquez.

The age of majority is 18 in Colombia, where the Marxist rebels have been fighting the government for more than 50 years.

Marquez accused the government of itself using minors in its fight against the guerrillas.

"The state and its military forces have carried out a policy of systematically using minors in the conflict," he told journalists.

Marquez was speaking at the close of the latest round of peace talks in the Cuban capital Havana.

The talks, which have been taking place for more than two years, have reached partial deals on several issues but have yet to yield a definitive peace accord.

The FARC's announcement came on the UN's International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers.