ELN must release Canadian hostage before peace talks are possible: Santos

Juan Manuel Santos (Photo: President's Office)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reiterated Wednesday that the ELN is welcome to hold peace talks with the government once they have released a Canadian hostage.

The president told the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ECOSOC) of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland that “we are interested in beginning a process with them, but just like we did with the FARC, we believe that some indications, some gestures from the ELN … like the liberation of the Canadian hostage they are holding, is necessary for us to begin the process.”

The FARC and ELN on Tuesday said that the leaders of both groups had met “somewhere in the motherland” to discuss the strengthening of ties between the two groups.

MORE: FARC And ELN Say Leaders Met To Discuss Unity Among Guerrilla Groups

Subsequently, the FARC’s negotiating team in Cuba called on the government to allow the ELN to the peace talks table.

However, in his speech before the UN committee, Santos insisted the Canadian miner who was kidnapped in the north of Colombia earlier this year must be released, a condition previously imposed by the president.

MORE: ELN Must Release All Hostages Before Peace Can Be Discussed: Santos

Additionally, the Colombian president called on the international community to continue supporting the peace talks, claiming that successful negotiations “will end up positively transforming the lives of 47 million Colombians.”

The FARC have been formally negotiating a peace deal with the government since November last year, but the ELN have been left out of the talks. Both groups were formed in 1964 by peasants trying to overthrow the national government that at that time was in control of political elites from the capital Bogota.

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have been killed since the latest armed conflict began.


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