Officials from the European Union and 11 Latin American nations gathered here Thursday at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization to sign a pact ending a two-decade-long dispute over banana tariffs.

"This is a truly historic moment," WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said after witnessing the signing. "After so many twists and turns, these complicated and politically contentious disputes can finally be put to bed."

The Latin American nations represented at the event in Geneva were Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and Peru.

The documents signed Thursday formalize commitments set out in the 2009 Geneva Banana Agreement, crafted by negotiators from the EU, Latin America and the United States.

Under the accord, the EU pledges to gradually reduce tariffs on banana imports from 176 euros ($224) per metric ton to 114 euros ($145) over the course of eight years.

It was Costa Rica that fired the first shot in what came to be known as the "banana war," filing a complaint in 1991 against the EU policy of giving preferential treatment to imports of agricultural goods from Europe's former colonies. EFE