Colombian President, opposition hold talks on FARC peace deal

Bogota, Oct 6 (IANS) Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos opened talks with leaders opposing the current peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“After the results of the plebiscite, it is my obligation as the President to seek ways for the union and reconciliation of the country,” Xinhua news agency quoted Santos as saying at a press conference after the meeting on Wednesday.

“We should pay much attention to their (the opponents’) comments and proposals to find a path that leads to a peace deal with the FARC,” he said.

Former President Alvaro Uribe and other leaders of the opposition party, the Democratic Center, attended the meeting.

In the plebiscite held on Sunday, the Colombian people rejected the agreement with a narrow margin.

Santos urged the public to be responsible and realistic in order to achieve a lasting peace.

He also insisted on speed, adding that ignoring the peace deal in the current unrest has many risks.

He also mentioned his previous meetings with union and church leaders from both sides. “I have found everyone active and ready to participate in reaching a peace deal. We all want peace,” he said.

Both the government and the Democratic Center have named envoys to form a commission to analyse the peace deal. Their first meeting is being held on October 6.

Santos said they will also have discussions with the FARC delegation in Havana.

The conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC started in the 1960s as an uprising for land rights.

On June 22, the government and the FARC announced a deal on a definitive bilateral ceasefire, marking a major step towards ending the half-century conflict.

Santos announced on Tuesday that the ceasefire that has been in place since August 29 this year will be extended until October 31.

On September 26, the FARC reached an agreement with the government on a peace deal to end the 52-year armed conflict.

According to the agreement, the rebel group must hand over weapons to the UN within 180 days.

–IANS

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