Colombia government, ELN rebels agree to ceasefire
QUITOColombia's government and ELN rebels have agreed to a ceasefire after months of talks, the rebels announced on Sept. 4. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos also confirmed the announcement and said that the government has agreed to a bilateral ceasefire with the ELN that will last 102 days.
The announcement in the Ecuadoran capital Quito, where the talks are being held, comes on the eve of a visit by Pope Francis to Colombia.
“Yes, it was possible,” the National Liberation Army (ELN) delegation said in a tweet announcing the deal.
Santos said “the priority is to protect citizens, so during this period, kidnappings, attacks on oil pipelines and other hostilities against the civilian population will cease.”
The latest round of talks between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN have been ongoing in neighboring Ecuador since February.
Colombia’s biggest rebel force, the FARC, disarmed last month under a peace deal with the government to end more than half a century of civil conflict.
Santos now wants a deal with the ELN to seal a “complete peace.”
The FARC and ELN formed in 1964 to fight for land rights and protection of poor rural communities.
The conflict drew in leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups and state forces.
It left 260,000 people confirmed dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced.
Officials say remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups are still fighting the ELN for control of the drug trade.
Both sides discussed the possibility of agreeing to a temporary ceasefire before the arrival of the pope, who begins a four-day visit to Colombia on Sept. 6.
“We have said that the visit of Pope Francisco should be an extra motivation to accelerate the search for agreements, which have as the main target communities that suffer the unfortunate consequences of the conflict,” the group said on another of its accounts on Twitter, using the Spanish version of the pope’s name.