‘ELN guerrilla peace talks must be discreet’: Colombia president

President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday that any peace talks with Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), must be discreet.

“The worst thing you can do is begin to answer or talk through the media,” argued the Colombian head of state, who is in Portugal on state business.

“We have understood that any approach to any of the (illegal armed) groups must be governed by a set of principles, one of those principles is discretion… if the ELN wants some kind of approach they must respect this principle.”

The ELN leadership, which commands an estimated 2,500 combatants, gave strong indications Monday that it is willing to negotiate a peace deal with the government.

“The ELN delegation for exploratory dialogue is formed and ready to carry out its promise to Colombia,” said the rebel group in an open letter.

The latest peace overtures have occurred at the same time as the Colombian government is trying to broker a peace deal with FARC rebels. That peace process began in February and was kept secret from the Colombian public until August 27.

Like FARC, the ELN has been at war with Colombia’s armed forces since 1964.

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