Pope seeks common ground on Colombia peace deal with Santos, Uribe
Pope Francis brought together Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his predecessor Alvaro Uribe at the Vatican Friday, without managing to persuade them to overcome their differences over an historic peace accord with FARC rebels.
Vatican City: Pope Francis brought together Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his predecessor Alvaro Uribe at the Vatican Friday, without managing to persuade them to overcome their differences over an historic peace accord with FARC rebels.
Uribe led the campaign opposing the agreement inked by Santos`s government with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The peace deal, aimed at ending a half-century conflict that has claimed more than 260,000 lives, was ratified last month after an earlier version was voted down in October.
Santos had already been set to meet the pope on Friday while on tour in Europe after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for the deal, and Uribe joined them after a last-minute invitation.
The Argentine pope talked with the men separately for 20 minutes each before holding an audience with both that lasted 25 minutes.
The Colombian president told journalists Pope Francis had "repeated his support for the new peace agreement" and stressed it should be "implemented immediately".
But Uribe told the media that there were still problems with the deal, which he said grants impunity to rebels guilty of war crimes, giving them seats in Congress rather than sending them to prison.
"Changes were made (to the old deal), but there are certain very delicate points that the government did not want to revise," he said.
"Right now there are Colombians in prison who have committed crimes that are much less grave than those of the FARC," he added.Francis talked to both men about the "importance of sincere dialogue between all parts of Colombian society," the Vatican said.
He added that the Roman Catholic Church in Colombia should do what it can to aid national reconciliation and teach "the lesson of forgiveness".
Uribe, a rightwing leader, spearheaded opposition to the peace deal, which was forged after nearly four years of negotiations.
After voters rejected the earlier deal by a narrow margin in an October referendum, the government and FARC renegotiated it, and had it ratified in Congress rather than risk a second referendum.
Santos described telling Uribe during their Vatican meeting that he welcomed the search for common ground on how to implement the deal.
"Peace is built -- we were talking about it with His Holiness -- like a cathedral. Brick by brick. And this demands an effort by many people over a long time.
"This is what Colombia faces, fortunately without the burden of war and armed conflict," he added.