Sunday 11 December 2016

Government and Farc teams meet to decide Colombia peace deal next move

Published 22/11/2016 | 20:31

President Juan Manuel Santos has made clear there is no more room for negotiation (AP)
President Juan Manuel Santos has made clear there is no more room for negotiation (AP)

Colombian officials have met leftist rebels to plan their next move after former president Alvaro Uribe refused to support a modified peace deal that the government hopes to sign in the coming hours.

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The gathering at a Roman Catholic retreat in Bogota followed a seven-hour meeting on Monday night in which government negotiators tried to persuade Mr Uribe and other sceptics to support the accord that would put an end to a half-century of fighting with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

Farc and government negotiators introduced some 50-plus changes to the original accord that was narrowly rejected by voters in a referendum last month.

Mr Uribe, a still-popular figure who has led opposition to the peace deal, said on Tuesday the changes are cosmetic and the accord, if implemented, represents a risk for Colombia's democracy because it does not go far enough in punishing rebels who committed scores of atrocities.

He requested a meeting with the Farc leadership to discuss his concerns, an encounter that seemed unlikely.

"Uribe governed badly, corrupted and bled Colombia during eight years and never wanted peace. He wanted to defeat the Farc but he couldn't," said Farc commander Pablo Catatumbo, one of the rebel commanders in Bogota, writing on his Twitter account.

President Juan Manuel Santos has made clear there is no more room for negotiation.

He has vowed to present the modified accord to congress for approval over the objections of Mr Uribe, who wants to submit the changes to another referendum that he is confident Colombians will once again reject.

The stand-off comes amid concerns a delicate ceasefire could unravel unless implementation begins soon.

Last week, two suspected Farc fighters were killed in combat with security forces in a confusing incident now being reviewed by UN monitors.

Farc officials are also outraged over the killing of several land-reform activists and human-rights defenders, three over the past weekend alone.

Mr Santos convened a meeting on Tuesday with top officials and the UN human rights envoy in Colombia to discuss the killings.

The recent murders "are palpable, dramatic evidence of the risks and uncertainty that exists around the implementation of the peace accord," he said after the meeting.

AP

Press Association

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