Colombia government, FARC willing to hear plans to change peace deal

October 7, 2016 11:15 AM EDT

People form the word Peace with letters at the Bolivar square outside the cathedral in Bogota, Colombia, September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Felipe Caicedo


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HAVANA/BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's government and Marxist FARC rebels said on Friday they were willing to listen to proposals to alter their peace accord after a painstakingly negotiated deal was unexpectedly rejected in a plebiscite, leaving the country in limbo.

In a joint statement from Havana, negotiators from the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said that after four years of talks, they have the "necessary reforms and measures to achieve peace and guarantee an end to the conflict."

The two sides, however, recognized the accord was rejected in an Oct. 2 plebiscite and were willing to listen to proposed adjustments.

"It's right that we continue listening to different sectors of society in a quick and efficient manner to understand their concerns and promptly find a solution," they said in statement read by lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, without providing details of the next steps.

The statement comes just hours after President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end a 52-year-old war with the FARC.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Santos had brought one of the longest civil wars in modern history closer to a peaceful solution, but the process could still collapse given the plebiscite result.

In a vote that confounded opinion polls and was a disaster for Santos, Colombians narrowly rebuffed the pact as too lenient on the rebels, who formed in 1964 as a peasant rebellion.

While the nation of almost 49 million people clamor for peace, the result of the plebiscite showed Colombians are not willing to accept it at any price.

In Bogota, Santos and representatives have been listening to the views of those who voted against the deal, led by former President Alvaro Uribe. Those will be presented by government negotiators at some point to the FARC for discussion.

Uribe, a former lawyer and cattle rancher, opposed the peace talks from the start and said the final deal gave too many concessions to the rebels.

He spearheaded the "no" campaign, urging Colombians to reject the accord, which would have given the FARC guaranteed congressional seats and immunity from traditional jail sentences. His side won by half a percentage point.

While there appears to be willingness on all sides, 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 has maintained a optimistic tone since his defeat on Sunday.

"Thank God peace is close. Peace is possible," he said after hearing of his award.

(Writing by Helen Murphy; Additional reporting by Marc Frank in Havana)



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