Bhopal, June 25, 2016 (Ataullah Faizan): The Colombian government and FARC rebels signed a ceasefire and disarmament agreement on Thursday, one of the last steps toward ending a half-century conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. The deal puts a definitive end to fighting in Latin America’s longest civil war, which has torn the country apart with shootings and bombardments in its coca-rich jungles and hills. President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Timoleon Jimenez shook hands and smiled after negotiators signed the deal at a ceremony in Cuba. The deal establishes “a bilateral ceasefire and end to hostilities and the definitive laying down of arms,” according to the text. “This is a historic day for our country,” Santos said in a speech to assembled leaders including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “After more than 50 years of confrontations, deaths, attacks and pain, we have put a final end to the armed conflict with the FARC.” Disarmament will begin after the signing of a full final peace agreement, expected within weeks. “Let this be the last day of the war,” Jimenez said. Thursday’s agreements “leave us on the verge of completing a final accord relatively soon,” he added. The final deal “will allow us to return at last to legal political activity through peaceful and democratic means.” In the Colombian capital of Bogota, crowds gathered to watch the announcement on a big screen. One man, Camilo Gonzalez, was moved to tears. It has been a tragic journey. Millions of victims, people displaced, fighting, broken dreams,” he said. But I think now we have reached a moment of hope.” Under the agreement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) must hand over its weapons to United Nations monitors within six months. The FARC’s members — an estimated 7,000 or so — will gather in “normalization zones” for a demobilization process. The sides also agreed to government action against “criminal organizations” blamed for fueling the conflict. The United States congratulated Colombia. “We will stand ready to help the Colombian people as they work toward a just and lasting peace,” said US National Security Advisor Susan Rice.