Colombia and ELN rebels hail progress in second round of peace talks | Armed groups news

An ELN official said the two sides had taken the “first steps” towards a temporary ceasefire at the end of negotiations in Mexico City.

The Colombian government and the left-wing rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) have hailed progress in their efforts to end decades of armed conflict in the South American nation, as a second round of peace talks concluded in Mexico City.

The talks are part of an effort by President Gustavo Petro – the country’s first left-wing leader and former M-19 rebel – to reach peace or surrender agreements with armed groups and bring relief. “total peace” in Colombia.

The ELN, founded by Catholic priests in 1964, is the country’s largest remaining rebel organization.

“We have taken the first steps to firm up a bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire that will create better conditions for the mobilization and participation of Colombians in the peace process,” the ELN’s Pablo Beltran said on Friday.

Otty Patino, the head of the Colombian government delegation, said creating a ceasefire will be a major challenge for the next round of talks in Cuba, as will crafting a ” pilot plan” for peace and widening participation in the negotiations.

The first round of peace talks, held in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas late last year, resulted in divergent accounts. The Colombian government announced that a truce had been reached while the ELN denied having accepted such an agreement, saying that a ceasefire “was only a proposal to be considered”.

Previous negotiations with the ELN broke down amid the group’s diffuse chain of command and dissent within its ranks.

In 2019, former conservative president Ivan Duque called off peace talks with the ELN after a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota killed 22 people.

ELN leaders said the fighters were on board with the ongoing talks.

On Friday, Norway and Mexico, which served as facilitators in the negotiations, welcomed their progress.

“Congratulations to [Colombian] government and #ELN guerrillas on substantial progress in the peace talks in Mexico, on key topics like participation, humanitarian aid and the future ceasefire,” the Norwegian Foreign Ministry tweeted.

The ELN has about 2,500 remaining fighters and has been accused of funding itself through drug trafficking, illegal mining and kidnapping.

Petro, who won elections in June, also said he planned to fully implement a previous agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed in 2016.

More than 450,000 people have been killed in nearly 60 years of armed conflict in the country.

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