A ceasefire between the Colombian rebel group ELN and the government must be respected “100%” if it is to win the confidence of the Colombian people, the head of the ELN delegation said on Monday ahead of new talks in Havana. .
Colombia’s leftist President Gustavo Petro relaunched peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) last year, but those talks were disrupted in March after the ELN killed nine Colombian soldiers near the border with Venezuela.
Any ceasefire must be “achievable and measurable” to convince the Colombian public, ELN chief negotiator Pablo Beltran told reporters shortly after arriving in Havana for a third round of talks since the election of Petro.
“We want…the Colombian people to see that a ceasefire is possible and that we have agreed to respect it,” Beltran said. 100%, i.e. zero errors.”
Beltran said the March attack that killed nine soldiers was prompted by an “offensive campaign” by the Colombian army.
“There have been a series of attacks. What was our response? To defend ourselves. That was the directive,” Beltran said.
The ELN attack, Petro’s government said, undermined Colombians’ confidence in the group’s commitment to peace. But Beltran said the Colombian army has also killed its fighters in combat operations since talks began.
“At the moment, there is no ceasefire. And the operations on both sides continue,” Beltran said, reaffirming his group’s desire to reach a ceasefire during the Havana talks.
Negotiations with the ELN under previous administrations broke down after dissent erupted within its ranks, but Beltran dismissed that would be a problem this time around, saying such a deal would be respected by all fronts in the labor force. ‘ELN.
Petro’s government and the ELN concluded a first round of peace talks in Caracas in late 2022. A second round of peace talks took place in Mexico this year.
The ELN, founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, has some 5,850 members, including 2,900 fighters, and is accused of financing itself through drug trafficking, illegal mining and kidnapping.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)