Colombia’s government and the country’s last-standing rebel group, the ELN, on Monday will enter permanent talks in the hope they can reach agreement on a bilateral ceasefire before the visit of Pope Francis in September.
The announcement was made by the government’s chief negotiator, Juan Camilo Restrepo, who said on Twitter the primary objective of the unabated talks are to “make progress on the issue of a cessation of hostilities.”
Mañana comienza tercer ciclo de negociaciones con en ELN en Quito; intentaremos avanzar en el tema de cese de hostilidades y de fuegos.
— Juan Camilo Restrepo (@RestrepoJCamilo) July 23, 2017
The ELN also sent out a press statement, in which it stressed “the possibility and responsibility to take a historic step: to agree to a bilateral ceasefire that offers the country a de-escalation of the armed conflict” that has been waging in the South American country since 1964.
The government and rebel negotiators have little more than a month to break the current deadlock as Pope Francis is expected to begin his visit on September 6.
The government has since the beginning of the talks refused to agree to a bilateral ceasefire until after a peace agreement. However, after a call from the Colombian Catholic Church, it ceded.
However, the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos has said it will only accept a bilateral ceasefire if the guerrillas also end all kind of aggression and violent activity that affect citizens, and an end on attacks on oil attacks, considered public property.
Having already made a major concession with agreeing to a ceasefire, Restrepo has demanded the ELN reciprocates and effectively end the guerrilla violence that’s been a scourge for Colombians for more than half a century.
However, the demand is considerable as the ELN partially depends on kidnapping and extortion, two practices the government demands an end to, for the financing of its armies.
This means that if the rebels agree, they might not be able to finance a possible return to the battlefield and could eventually bleed dry, effectively giving them few options but to successfully finish the peace talks.
The Santos administration has already successfully concluded peace talks with the FARC, Colombia’s longest-living rebel group, and is currently engaged in a peace process that began on December 1, last year.