Bogota: Colombia`s government said Tuesday that the FARC rebels must decide whether to renegotiate a peace deal that voters rejected in a referendum, throwing a four-year-old peace process into disarray.
The government`s chief peace negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, has returned to Havana, where the peace talks were held, to see whether the leftist guerrillas are open to revising the deal, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin told a press conference.
"The decision on whether to open up the agreements is a decision that falls to the FARC," she said. Colombians narrowly voted "No" Sunday to what had been hailed as a historic peace deal, a shock defeat in a referendum marked by low turnout.
Voters apparently balked at the concessions offered to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including soft sentences with no jail time for those who confessed to crimes committed during the 52-year-old conflict.
President Juan Manuel Santos, who has staked his legacy on the peace process, has named Holguin, de la Calle and Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas to hold talks with the opposition on salvaging the deal.
They will be tasked with finding a compromise acceptable to both the FARC and the deal`s hardline opponents, led by Santos`s political enemy, former president Alvaro Uribe.
Holguin said the government is "fully ready" to listen to the deal`s opponents. She called for a speedy meeting with Uribe`s right-wing party, the Democratic Center -- which snubbed emergency talks convened Monday by Santos at the presidential palace.
The Colombia conflict has killed more than 260,000 people and left 45,000 missing, drawing in several leftist guerrilla groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.
The FARC, the oldest and largest rebel group, was to relaunch as a political party under the peace deal. Holguin admitted the government was left scrambling by the surprise referendum result, which flew in the face of opinion polls.
"There was no Plan B. We believed the country wanted peace," she said. A United Nations mission tasked with overseeing the disarmament process was also left adrift.
"The mandate for the UN political mission... is for a peace deal. At this point, we don`t have a peace deal," said Holguin.