Colombia’s government and ELN rebels said Saturday that they will move peace talks to Cuba after Ecuador’s withdrawal as the negotiations’ host nation.
Ecuador hosted the talks since their beginning in February 2017. The country’s president, Lenin Moreno, said his country would withdraw after a number of violent attacks by rogue Colombian guerrilla groups in the border region.
“Negotiations with the ELN are resumed the coming week to seek a ceasefire and to seek as much progress as possible,” said Santos, who is set to leave office in August.
The warring parties have indicated that they hope to agree on a definite bilateral ceasefire before August to increase the chances that they will continue to be supported by the next president.
The Santos administration and the ELN agreed to a temporary ceasefire between October last year and January, but failed to agree to an extension of the truce that saw multiple violations by the guerrillas and a sharp increase in attacks on social leaders.
The talks seek to end the ELN’s rebellion against the state that began in 1964 and was part of a broader armed conflict that involved multiple guerrilla and paramilitary groups.
After almost 54 years of armed conflict, more than 8.5 million Colombians have been victimized by the political violence. More than 265,000 Colombians are estimated to have died while another 80,000 people are missing and presumed dead.
The FARC, which also formed in 1964, demobilized 14,000 people last year and is currently taking part in a peace process.
Violence, nevertheless, has continued as dissident paramilitary and guerrilla groups try to maintain control over the largely lawless countryside.