After more than 50 years of armed conflict, Colombia and the FARC rebel group Wednesday announced they have reached a final peace accord.

"We have reached a final, integral and definitive agreement" to end the conflict and build a stable, lasting peace, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said in a joint statement.

"The end of the armed conflict will mean, first and foremost, the end of enormous suffering that the conflict has caused," the statement read. "Second, the end of the conflict will entail the opening of a new chapter of our history."

Colombia's chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, put it more succinctly.

"The war is over," he said.

The announcement comes after nearly four years of negotiations in Havana, including a marathon weeklong session that led to the final deal.

The conflict has calmed dramatically since talks began and particularly in the last year. The two sides signed a ceasefire in June.

The peace deal includes rural reforms, joint action against drug trafficking, political participation of demobilized guerrillas and the creation of a system of transitional justice.

De la Calle and FARC negotiator Luciano Arango, known by his nom de guerre Ivan Marquez, signed the deal in Havana in a preliminary ceremony presided over by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The official signing by Santos and FARC Commander Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko, will take place in a ceremony in September, possibly in Colombia, according to government sources.

The deal will then be subjected to a national referendum, now planned for early October. The latest polls show public opinion split between supporters and opponents.

US President Barack Obama called Santos with congratulations.

A White House statement said Obama viewed the deal as "a critical juncture in what will be a long process to fully implement a just and lasting peace agreement."

The two presidents also agreed to maintain close collaboration and to continue joint efforts to combat organized crime and narcotics trafficking.

A spokesman for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon also congratulated Santos, Londono and their negotiating teamsfor their hard work and patience.

"Now that the negotiations have concluded, an equally determined and exemplary effort will be required to implement the agreements," the spokesman said.

Colombia has been riven by internal conflict since the 1960s, as FARC and other left-wing rebels have battled military, police and right-wing paramilitaries.

More than 220,000 lives have been lost, and millions forced to flee parts of the country consumed by war. The government counts more than 7.6 million Colombians as direct and indirect victims of the conflict, and more landmine victims than any country but Afghanistan.

The FARC is the largest and oldest guerrilla organization in Latin America. Born out of political struggles between liberals and conservatives in the 1950s, the group came to life in the 1960s as an armed faction of Colombia's Communist Party, and took up violence as a response to inequality in land rights.

An earlier attempt to move into politics in 1984 ended in bloodshed when right-wing paramilitaries killed thousands of members of its Patriotic Union Party. At the high point of its power, from 1998-2002, it tried again with peace talks with the government, and secured a demilitarized zone the size of Switzerland.

Since 2002 under pressure from Colombia's military its territory has shrunken, but the group still counts more than 8,000 men and women armed fighters.

The FARC long used drug trafficking, illegal mining and kidnapping as sources of revenue. One of their most prominent captives was former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was held for six years before being released in 2008.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.