Colombia to resume peace talks with ELN
Bogota, 12 March (Argus) — The outgoing Colombian administration plans to forge a new bilateral ceasefire and restart peace talks with guerrilla group ELN, President Juan Manuel Santos said today.
ELN revived attacks on oil pipelines and other infrastructure following the January expiry of a bilateral ceasefire, but suspended its operations in the days leading up to yesterday´s congressional elections and presidential primaries.
Colombian state-controlled Ecopetrol´s 220,000 b/d Caño Limón-Coveñas crude pipeline has been off-line because of multiple attacks since shortly after the ceasefire ended on 9 January.
Santos, who leaves office in August, said he aspires for a "complete peace" that would save lives, even though he said war is more popular than the path of peace that requires patience and perseverance.
"The idea is to advance on two fronts: citizen participation and humanitarian actions to help construct peace, and to forge a ceasefire," Santos said in a national broadcast. "Dialogue is not synonymous with weakness--completely the opposite."
The decision comes in the wake of the congressional elections and presidential primaries that reinforced the prominence of conservative politicians who are critical of the government´s 2016 peace deal with former guerrilla group Farc. Ivan Duque, heir to hawkish former president Alvaro Uribe, is positioned to run against leftist former Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro to succeed Santos for a four-year term.
The first-round vote will take place on 27 May, to be followed by a run-off on 17 June.
A fifth round of talks with ELN had been scheduled to start in Quito, Ecuador, in January before the dialogue fell apart.
Farc, which has become a political movement, garnered negligible support in yesterday´s elections, but the group has 10 legislative seats guaranteed by the peace deal.