Peace talks have resumed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The news came despite FARC rejecting calls for any agreement to be put to a national referendum.
Talks in the Cuban capital Havana had been put on ice Friday in response to Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos' decision to submit legislation stipulating any peace agreement be the subject of public vote.
Lead FARC negotiator Ivan Marquez rejected the proposal as a “flagrant violation” of the conditions of the talks, saying a referendum would not be "binding, we do not go along with it, nor will we base the dialogue and the outcome on this unilateral decision.”
But the rebel group - estimated to have 8,000 fighters - elected on Monday to continue peace talks nonetheless, hopeful their desire to have the constitution rewritten can still be accomplished.
It is that issue that lies at the root of the discussions, which have been ongoing since November.
"It was carefully noted that the FARC had taken the decision to return on Monday at half past eight in the morning to the talks table to continue deliberations as normal,” former Colombia Vice President Humberto de la Calle said in a statement
The two parties remain less than halfway through a five-point agenda, and trouble flared on Saturday when an ambush by FARC and ELN (the National Liberation Army) forces near the north-eastern border town of Tame left 14 Colombian soldiers dead.
But hope still persists over a resolution: "The government has made a positive assessment of the way the peace talks are developing and believes that [an agreement] could be ready before the end of the year," Peace and Reconciliation Foundation analyst Leon Valencia said.
ph/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)