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Colombian president meets rival to discuss FARC deal


Colombia

Colombian president meets rival to discuss FARC deal



The Colombian President and his opposition rival have held talks in a bid to resolve their differences over a peace deal with the country’s Marxist FARC rebels.

The agreement was unexpectedly rejected by popular vote last Sunday, leaving the country in limbo and turmoil.



Juan Manuel Santos and Alvaro Uribe both say they are willing to bring an end to the 52-year war that has killed more than 220,000 people.

Millions more have been displaced.



Shock rejection – and political disaster



Sunday’s shock referendum result was a political disaster for Santos.

The “No” vote won by less than half a percentage point.

The future of the FARC rebels has been plunged into uncertainty.

They had been expected to disarm if the deal was rubber-stamped by voters.




Uribe – adjustments and proposals



Current president Santos once served in Uribe’s cabinet, but the two have not met since late 2010.

After more than three hours of talks, the former president emphasized the need for “adjustments and proposals” to ensure the deal encompassed all Colombians.

The 64-year-old described Santos as “disposed to changes”, but gave no concrete details.

Uribe, a former lawyer and cattle rancher, opposed Santos’ peace talks from the start.

He said the final agreement, which was reached in August after four years of painstaking negotiations in Havana, gave too many concessions to the rebels.

Uribe, who led the “no” campaign, urged Colombians not to approve the accord.

It would have given the FARC guaranteed congressional seats as well as immunity from traditional jail sentences.




The future of the deal



The future of the deal seems to hang on whether the FARC will accept tougher conditions for demobilisation.

The government says the decision to re-open talks lies with the rebel leadership.

Government negotiators are in Havana to confer with guerrilla commanders who have said they will remain “faithful” to the accord.




Protests



Thousands of people, many wearing white, took to the streets of cities across Colombia in support of the agreement.

Members of Santos’ cabinet joined marchers in the main square in Bogota.





What they are saying



“We identified that many of their worries come from points that need clarification or precisions. Today we began to work with them to firm up those points and resolve their doubts,” – Juan Manuel Santos said in a statement.


“They have made it clear they want the peace process to continue and they want to negotiate a settlement,” – a senior US State Department official says both sides are committed to dialogue.



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