Colombian President and FARC Rebels Launch Bid To Rescue Peace Deal

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos holds his ballot in the referendum on a peace accord to end the 52-year-old guerrilla war between the FARC and the state, Bogota, October 2. He opened a new national dialogue Monday to seek peace with FARC rebels. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC rebels launched a new bid to salvage a failed peace deal Monday after voters rejected an agreement in a referendum that could have ended a conflict that has lasted for half a century.

Santos, in a televized address, said he had requested that Humberto de la Calle, the government's chief negotiator with FARC, "begin discussions as soon as possible addressing all the necessary issues to have an agreement and realize the dream of every Colombian to end the war with the FARC."

He announced the new bid to hold talks with FARC and iron out issues preventing the landmark peace deal passing after holding an emergency meeting with the country's political parties in the aftermath of Sunday's shock result. He said the meeting would look to find "common ground and unity… that's more important now than ever."

The conflict between FARC and government forces, which has also involved other paramilitary groups and drug gangs, has left more than a quarter of a million people dead, millions displaced and 45,000 missing in more than half a century of fighting.

Leader of the FARC rebel group Rodrigo Londono—also known as Timoleon "Timochenko" Jimenez—stated his and the group's desire for peace and willingness to address issues preventing the success of the peace deal.

He said that the outcome of the referendum "does not mean the battle for peace is lost" in a televized message from the Cuban capital, Havana, where peace talks have taken place for four years, and pledged to help "fix" the deal.

The peace deal was signed by both parties but when put to the Colombian public, it failed to cross the line with a 50.21 percent majority for "No" defeating the "Yes" camp's 49.78 percent in a referendum that saw only a 37 percent turnout.

Many voters believe that FARC rebels should suffer more punishment under the deal for alleged crimes committed throughout the conflict. A referendum was not required to ensure the deal was put in place but Santos said it was needed to ensure that it was legitimate in the eyes of the Colombian people.