Colombia

Colombia misses peace deadline with guerrillas amid differences

In this photo released by the office of Colombia's Peace Commissioner, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, and U.S. Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process Bernard Aronson, far left, meet with Colombia's Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo, right, head of the Colombia's government negotiation team Humberto de la Calle, third from right, and other members of the Colombian government team holding peace talks with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, in Havana, Monday, March 21, 2016. Peace talks started in Havana in November 2012. The two sides are currently negotiating a bilateral ceasefire, as well as the rebels' demobilization and disarmament.
In this photo released by the office of Colombia's Peace Commissioner, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, and U.S. Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process Bernard Aronson, far left, meet with Colombia's Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo, right, head of the Colombia's government negotiation team Humberto de la Calle, third from right, and other members of the Colombian government team holding peace talks with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, in Havana, Monday, March 21, 2016. Peace talks started in Havana in November 2012. The two sides are currently negotiating a bilateral ceasefire, as well as the rebels' demobilization and disarmament. Colombia's Peace Commissioner via AP

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.

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