When Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the country’s largest guerrilla group announced six months ago that they planned to have a finalized peace deal by March 23, it seemed bold and ambitious.
On Wednesday, those ambitions fell flat as negotiators admitted there were still “important differences” between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In a brief statement, the country’s chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, said the country was not interested in signing a deal at any cost or one that couldn’t be sustained.
“It has to be a good deal, the best deal possible for Colombians,” he said. “It’s for Colombians that we’ve been working everyday and for more than three and a half years in Havana.”
While de la Calle didn’t offer details on the impasse, he said the FARC must lay down their weapons before other parts of the bargain could take effect, including transitional justice and their reincorporation into civilian life.
“We have to offer the FARC legal and physical protection but they have to guarantee civil society that they will enter civilian life openly and without tricks,” he said.
Santos had announced weeks ago that a final deal was unlikely. But there had been hope that some kind of agreement might be announced this week as the eyes of the world were focused on the island during the historic visit by President Barack Obama.
“We are going to exhaust all our resources to reach a final deal,” de la Calle said without offering a new deadline. “But this requires decisions soon. Colombians want it, or better said, they demand it.”
Negotiators have been meeting in Havana since 2012 in hopes of finding a negotiated solution to end the hemisphere’s longest-running and bloodiest civil conflict.