Bogota: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will meet with opposition rival Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday in a bid to resolve differences over a peace deal with FARC rebels that was rejected in a shock vote this week, leaving the country in limbo.
The surprise plebiscite result, which confounded pollsters and is a political disaster for Santos, has plunged the country into uncertainty over the future of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebels, who had been expected to disarm once the deal was passed by voters.
The country’s 52-year war has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions more.
Uribe, a former president and current senator, opposed Santos’ peace talks from the start and says the final deal, which was reached in August after four years of painstaking negotiations in Havana, gives too many concessions to the rebels.
He spearheaded the “no" campaign, urging Colombians not to approve the accord, which would have given the Farc guaranteed congressional seats and immunity from traditional jail sentences. “No" carried the day by less than half a percentage point.
The future of the deal seems to hang on whether the Farc will accept tougher conditions for demobilization, perhaps combined with a softening of Uribe’s hard-line demands.
Santos once served in Uribe’s cabinet, but the two have not met since late 2010.
The government has said the decision to re-open talks lies with rebel leadership.
Lead government negotiators Humberto de la Calle and Sergio Jaramillo went back to Havana on Tuesday to confer with guerrilla commanders, who appeared worried about an announcement by Santos regarding a ceasefire between the two sides.
Santos decreed late on Tuesday that a government ceasefire put in place in August would be extended until the end of October to allow time to salvage the deal. The original ceasefire was nullified when the peace accord was rejected at the polls.
But rebels questioned what would happen after 31 October, although it is possible the ceasefire could be extended beyond that date.
“From then on, does the war continue?" Farc leader Timochenko tweeted.
Rebel commander Pastor Alape advised rebel fighters to seek safe positions to avoid provocations.
Santos spoke to US secretary of state John Kerry, who reaffirmed US support for efforts seeking peace and said special envoy Bernie Aronson will travel back to Havana, the state department said on Wednesday. Reuters