Colom­bia’s San­tos hopes for new FARC deal by Christ­mas

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Juan Manuel San­tos said in an in­ter­view yes­ter­day that he hoped to se­cure a new deal with FARC rebels by Christ­mas, warn­ing that any fur­ther de­lay could make the peace process “ex­plode”. The govern­ment signed a his­toric agree­ment last month with the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia (FARC), Colom­bia’s big­gest rebel group, but in a shock move, vot­ers re­jected the deal in a ref­er­en­dum on Oc­to­ber 2.

“All the ne­go­tia­tors and I have met al­most ev­ery or­ga­ni­za­tion and we are now di­gest­ing more than 500 pro­pos­als-and talk­ing with the FARC-to have a new agree­ment, agreed and ap­proved, by Christ­mas. That is my goal,” San­tos told Bri­tain’s Ob­server news­pa­per. “This un­cer­tainty is very risky, be­cause any­thing could hap­pen that could re­ally make the process ex­plode. So I am work­ing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with my team to get an­other agree­ment,” he added.

Since the ref­er­en­dum, San­tos has held marathon talks with po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in­clud­ing for­mer pres­i­dent Al­varo Uribe-who led op­po­si­tion to the agree­ment — as well as re­li­gious lead­ers and vic­tims of the armed con­flict. San­tos, who won the No­bel peace prize this year for his ef­forts, said he was happy to meet Uribe “any time” but said “he has been stalling, not al­low­ing the teams to get into real ne­go­ti­a­tions”. “I am ready, I am ea­ger, be­cause I know that if we sit down we can agree on many of the things that con­cern him,” the pres­i­dent said.

Uribe had crit­i­cised the deal for grant­ing “to­tal im­punity” for rebel crimes. San­tos said: “Some of the pro­pos­als are vi­able and we think the FARC should ac­cept them, but oth­ers are sim­ply not vi­able. “For ex­am­ple the ones that say there is no armed con­flict in Colom­bia, and that there is no war in Colom­bia and that there are no vic­tims in Colom­bia and there­fore the tran­si­tional jus­tice can­not ap­ply.”

The in­ter­view comes ahead of a state visit by San­tos to Bri­tain on Tues­day, the first ever by a Colom­bian pres­i­dent, where he will meet with Queen El­iz­a­beth II and Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May.

On Thurs­day, he will travel to Belfast to meet key fig­ures in North­ern Ire­land’s peace process, the For­eign Of­fice said. — AFP

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