The UN Security Council has approved a political mission to monitor the implementation of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), following a joint request by the parties.
The resolution was passed unanimously on Monday, sending a strong signal that a March deadline to reach a final peace agreement could be within reach.
The resolution establishes a political mission for 12 months, and the council can consider an extension if asked by the two parties.
It calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to make recommendations on the size and operational details of the monitoring mission, which will serve as the international component of a three-party mechanism to monitor compliance by both sides of the ceasefire.
The unarmed mission, which was established for an initial period of 12 months, will be “responsible for the monitoring and verification of the laying down of arms” and the upholding of a “bilateral ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.”
Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, praised the Colombian government and FARC for requesting the UN’s assistance.
“It is to the credit of the parties that they have worked together to bring this issue to the council,” Rycroft said.
“It is uncommon for a country to refer itself to the council, but this is exactly the sort of role the United Nations should be playing – supporting conflict prevention and conflict resolution at the national level alongside others,” he added.
Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said the resolution was seen as an “important victory” for the world body.
“The UN is really in need of a victory right now. If this peace deal comes through and the UN is involved, they can say that this is an example that diplomacy, negotiating peace can work.”
The joint request for the monitoring mission was sent last Tuesday.
FARC is the largest and oldest rebel group in Latin America, and once controlled large parts of Colombia.
While the group has been weakened over the years, experts believe that FARC is still active in 25 of Colombia’s 32 provinces and has a total of around 8,000 fighters.
The conflict between the rebels and the government has claimed more than 220,000 lives and displaced almost five million people over 50 years.