November 3, 2016 / 11:21 PM / 3 years ago

Majority of Colombians back peace talks but see no deal this year - poll

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A majority of Colombians support peace talks with Marxist rebels but they also doubt that the government will be able to reach a new accord with the country’s largest guerrilla group this year, a poll showed on Thursday.

Cuba's President Raul Castro (C) looks as Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (L) shakes hands with FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, after signing a historic ceasefire deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels in Havana, Cuba, in this June 23, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The Gallup poll was published a month after a landmark peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was unexpectedly rejected in a referendum.

The Gallup poll showed that 77 percent of Colombians want a negotiated solution to the 52-year conflict with the FARC, while only 19 percent support a military solution.

But voters rejected a signed peace deal with the FARC by less than half a percentage point in the shock result of an Oct. 2 referendum, meaning it could not be implemented.

Opponents of the accord, reached after four years of intense negotiations, said it was too lenient on rebels who had committed crimes. Many voters also opposed provisions that gave the guerrillas seats in Congress.

The government and rebels alike had said the accord was the best that could be achieved. But the government is now fighting to salvage the peace deal and extended meetings this week with the right-wing opposition, led by former President Alvaro Uribe, which backed the ‘no’ vote in the plebiscite.

Government peace negotiators were also due to travel on Friday to Havana, Cuba, where the talks took place, to continue meetings with the FARC leadership.

Sixty-one percent of those polled by Gallup said the government would not reach a final accord with the FARC this year, while 37 percent said it would.

The poll also showed that 80 percent of Colombians support peace negotiations the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s second-largest rebel group.

The government has postponed planned talks with the group pending the release of a politician held hostage.

The Gallup survey, based on responses from 1,200 participants, had a 5 percent margin of error.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Tom Brown

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