Colombia to keep ceasefire "as long as necessary"

Colombia will continue its ceasefire with the FARC rebel group "as long as necessary," Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said Wednesday, amid concerns war could break out again after Colombians voted to reject a historic peace treaty.

The clarification came a day after President Jose Manuel Santos had extended the ceasefire until October 31, saying he hoped by then "we can finalize the agreement and end the conflict."

FARC leader Rodrigo Londono responded publicly late Tuesday on social media, asking, "and from then going forward the war continues?"

The talk of war was an about-face for Colombia, which only a week ago was celebrating an imminent end to the 52-year conflict between government forces and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that has left more than 220,000 dead.

The sides entered a bilateral ceasefire in June. Santos and Londono signed the 297-page peace accord September 26 and most had expected voters to approve it.

Sunday's vote against it by a whisker-thin 50.2-per-cent majority plunged the peace process into uncertainty, as opposition leaders pushed for a re-negotiation of the deal with tougher terms for FARC, and FARC urged supporters to take to the streets to insist it be implemented as signed.

Santos was to meet Wednesday with former presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andrea Pastrana, who led the campaign against the accords, as he tried to assuage "no" voters and salvage the deal.

Last update: Wed, 05/10/2016 - 22:00

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