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Colombian government, FARC guerrilla force to work on resolving waylaid peace deal

By Ians English

Havana, Oct 8: Colombia's government and FARC guerrilla force have agreed to set up a "rapid and effective" process to "quickly" salvage a hard-won peace deal that was nevertheless rejected at the polls.

In a joint declaration, the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said on Friday that they were committed to the peace deal signed on September 26, and to addressing the doubts and concerns Colombians expressed in a referendum held on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.


The referendum asked Colombians to accept or reject the peace agreement, and in an unexpected turn of events the "No" camp won, albeit by a slight margin of less than one per cent.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos garnered the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for trying to end the country's five-decade-long conflict, and the announcement gave a much needed shot in the arm to the weakened peace process.

The joint declaration followed a meeting in Havana between the two sides, with the participation of guarantor countries Cuba and Norway, as well as the head of a special United Nations mission in Colombia. Colombia's chief negotiator Humberto de la Calle and his FARC counterpart Ivan Marquez both expressed their willingness to work to resolve the public's concerns.

"It is fitting that we continue listening, in a rapid and effective process, to the different sectors of society, to understand their concerns and quickly outline a solution," they said.

The leading proponent of the "No" camp is Colombia's hardline ex-President and now Senator Alvaro Uribe, who believes the Santos government has made too many concessions to the FARC, such as allowing them to play a role in politics once they have disarmed.

The peace deal contains the "reforms and measures needed to establish the foundations for peace and guarantee the end of the armed conflict", they said. However, in recognition of the referendum's outcome, "the resulting changes and clarifications proposed will be discussed between the government and the FARC to offer everyone guarantees", they added.

In the meantime, a definitive bilateral ceasefire that took effect on August 29 will remain in place and be monitored by both sides, with the help of the UN.

Both sides will also continue to work "to build trust of a humanitarian nature", including cooperating to identify the many who went missing in the war, and to promote crop substitution towards eradicating illicit drugs. Cuba and Norway also issued a declaration, ratifying their commitment to the peace process.

Perhaps due to rain, less than 40 per cent of Colombia's registered voters took part in the October 2 referendum, which saw the "No" vote defeat "Yes" by 50.21 per cent to 49.87 per cent. Santos has begun to consult with Uribe and another former president, as well as others, in an attempt to adapt the agreement.


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