Colombia government and ELN rebels to resume peace talks
The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) will resume peace talks on 15 March in the Ecuadorian capital Quito, both parties said.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos's government suspended negotiations in January following an escalation in violence on police stations that left six people dead and dozens more wounded.
In an announcement echoed by the ELN, Santos's negotiating team said on Twitter: ‘Tomorrow from 10:00am in Quito, Ecuador, we will begin the fifth round of peace talks between the government and the ELN.’
Ecuadorian foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa, currently in New York, said it was ‘great news’ that the discussions would resume.
Espinosa said: ‘Peace in Colombia is peace for all of Latin America.’
Talks began a year ago in Sangolqui, in the suburbs of Quito – but were suspended after the end of a historic bilateral ceasefire gave way to a guerrilla offensive.
Santos announced on 12 March that the talks would resume following the rebels' unilateral ceasefire during legislative elections the day before – seen as a test of the group's willingness to get back to negotiations.
He said the parties would discuss a new, ‘broad and verifiable’ ceasefire agreement that would prevent a resurgence of violence of the kind that forced the suspension of talks in January.
The ELN ‘will continue talking’ and ‘does not reject peace,’ said its leader Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, according to a statement released by negotiators.
Santos, who will leave office in August 2018, is hoping to establish total peace in Colombia after the disarming of the FARC guerrilla group, which has since transformed into a political party.