Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia extends Farc ceasefire amid talks to save peace deal

Men hold a banner reading "Agreement Now!" during a march for peace through streets of Cali, Colombia, on October 9, 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption "Agreement now" reads a banner carried during a rally for peace in Cali, Colombia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has extended a ceasefire with Farc rebels until the end of the year to give more time to save a peace deal.

The accord, signed with the left-wing rebel group last month, was narrowly rejected in a national referendum.

Mr Santos has spent the past few days meeting those who campaigned for a "No" vote.

He will take new proposals to a meeting with Farc leaders in the Cuban capital, Havana.

The original ceasefire ended with the referendum and has already been extended until 31 October.

In a televised address, Mr Santos said he had made the decision to extend the ceasefire further after meeting student leaders who had organised marches through Bogota in support of the peace deal.

"One of the students reminded me that in the army and in the guerrilla ranks, there are young people waiting to see what happens, hoping that they don't need to fire another shot," he said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Santos say he hopes to create a new pact before the ceasefire expires

"For that reason, and at the request of the students, I have taken the decision to extend the ceasefire until 31 December."

Mr Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for reaching the peace agreement, which took more than four years to negotiate.

'We still have roadmap to peace' - Farc's 'Number Two' talks to BBC's Will Grant

Image copyright AFP

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Ivan Marquez, the Farc's lead negotiator at the peace talks in Havana, denied that the original agreement was moribund.

"This final accord is the key, is the formula, is the roadmap to peace - a peace with dignity, which is what we want, and with democracy," he said.

Mr Marquez acknowledged the "no" campaign's victory in the referendum, but said: "It was a technical draw between the 'no' and the 'yes'. The 'no' didn't obtain an absolute majority. But they have an Achilles heel: the 'no' campaign was constructed on a base of lies."

Former president, Alvaro Uribe, who led the "no" campaign, has called for the Farc's top leadership to serve prison sentences, but that concession is unlikely to come from the guerrillas.

"If Alvaro Uribe couldn't win the war [in the eight years he was president]," Mr Marquez said, "then he should move aside and let Colombians make peace."

But Mr Marquez insisted a process of consultation between all sides, including the millions who abstained in the referendum, could bring about a "stronger agreement which has the backing of all Colombians".

The campaign to reject the deal, led by former President Alvaro Uribe, called for a stronger line to be taken against former rebels.

They were angered that Farc guerrillas were offered congressional seats and non-custodial sentences such as clearing landmines in return for ending the conflict.

Farc leader Timoleon Rodriguez, better known as Timochenko, said on Wednesday he was confident the deal could be revived although he said he would be reluctant to renegotiate some elements of the accord.

An estimated 220,000 people have been killed during more than 50 years of conflict.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Peace campaigners have sewn together sheets bearing the names of victims in the centre of Bogota

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