Colombia’s Catholic Church vowed on Monday to try to mediate a resumption of peace talks between the national government and the ELN, the country’s last-standing guerrilla group.
Following a meeting with guerrilla representatives in Quito, Ecuador, Father Dario Echeverri of the church’s National Reconciliation Commission vowed to talk to the national government.
President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the talks after guerrilla attacks in the north of the country left seven policemen dead and dozens injured.
The guerrillas resumed attacks after the warring parties failed to agree to an extension of a bilateral ceasefire that expired a month ago.
Echeverri said he would talk to President Juan Manuel Santos and chief negotiator Gustavo Bell to “motivate them to — with a dose of generosity — proceed the negotiation and take them to a point where the process is irreversible.”
The warring parties are in a stalemate over the cessation of violence. The government wants the ELN to end attacks before agreeing to a bilateral ceasefire while the rebel group vowed to end violence after a bilateral ceasefire.
According to radio station RCN, the ELN has lost hope it will be able to come to a final peace agreement before the end of Santos’ second term as president in August.
Instead, the guerrillas reportedly hope that a new president will be presented with a de-escalation of violence that would allow the new president to bring the negotiations to a successful end.
Negotiating with the ELN, however, has been complicated as they blame the government for acts of violence committed by rival illegal armed groups in areas where the state traditionally has been absent.
Election candidates, moreover, have called for a firm response to guerrilla violence.
The ELN is the last of two guerrilla groups that declared war on the Colombian state in 1964 and have been trying to overthrow the government for more than 50 years.
The FARC, the largest of the groups, agreed to peace in 2016 and have since converted to a political party.