Colombia’s government and the country’s last-standing rebel group, the ELN, on Monday will enter permanent talks in the hope they can reach agreement on a bilateral ceasefire before the visit of Pope Francis in September. The announcement was made by the government’s chief negotiator, Juan Camilo Restrepo, who said on Twitter the primary objective of the unabated talks are to “make progress on the issue of a cessation of hostilities.” Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports
The UN Secretary-General has welcomed the launch of formal peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the ELN rebel group, also known as the National Liberation Army. António Guterres issued a statement through his spokesperson on Wednesday after the two parties met in Ecuador's capital, Quito. UN Radio
Now, with this liberation, ELN complies with the demands required to initiate peace talks with ELN, totally suspended on October 27. The negotiation will concentrate on five points. Victims, corruption, citizen participation, poverty, social exclusion and guarantees for the end of the conflict are at the core of negotiations. While less than five months ago the Prosecutor's Office issued out collective indictments of ELN leadership, today these same individuals are the protagonists of a new chapter in the construction of peace in Colombia. El Espectador
Clouds gathered Monday over peace talks aimed at ending Colombia's half-century conflict after the ELN rebels claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing at a bullring in Bogota. The leftist rebels' claim of responsibility, issued late Sunday on Twitter, pollutes the air at the peace talks as President Juan Manuel Santos seeks a deal with Colombia's last active rebel group to end a conflict that has killed 260,000 people. The ELN also claimed responsibility for a February 14 attack on a military patrol in eastern Colombia that wounded two soldiers, as well as several bombings on the Cano Limon Covenas oil pipeline.Enca
Truth is that today's meeting takes place amidst an atmosphere of trust, especially after yesterday when ELN delivered to a mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Ombudsman's Office, and the Catholic Church private Fredy Moreno Mahecha, who had been kidnapped a week ago by the front Domingo Laín on the road to Tame from Arauca. This fact was received as a clear sign of good will on the part of the guerrilla so the dialogues begin with the right foot forward. Everything seems to be arranged for it to be the case. El Tiempo
This is the ELN’s fourth official attempt to negotiate with the Colombian state. With its more horizontal and decentralised structure, and because revolutionary dissent is an ELN objective, the group is considered to be more “stubborn” than the FARC. As such, it is difficult to predict the outcome of this upcoming peace process. It is expected to be different than the four-year-long FARC negotiations, which were often perceived as an elite-to-elite conversation. With the ELN, civil society, including environmental organisations and trade unions that share some of the group’s views will have a voice in the peace process.
This will enable a wider-ranging national negotiation that could, in turn, strengthen and reinforce the existing FARC agreement by supporting a broader peace-building exercise. Still, a peace agreement is not peace; it is a roadmap for how to arrive at peace. If President Santos succeeds in negotiating and signing a peace accord with the ELN, it would be a momentous achievement. But it would mark the beginning of another journey for Colombia, not an arrival. The Huffington Post
Colombia's second-largest rebel group has agreed to free a prominent politician held captive for almost a year, clearing the way for repeatedly postponed peace talks to begin next month. The agreement worked out during months of backchannel talks with the National Liberation Army was announced at a news conference Wednesday in Quito, Ecuador. Former congressman Odin Sanchez had turned himself in to the guerrillas in exchange for his brother, kidnapped by ELN. New York Times