The supreme leader of the ELN on Sunday confirmed informal talks with Colombia’s government are ongoing, but “sometimes difficult” as both parties fail to formalize the talks that were announced in June.
In a YouTube video, ELN leader “Gabino” stressed that, in spite of an apparent lack of progress, the talks are taken seriously.
“Following that announcement, bilateral activities have continues to be developed,” said Gabino, whose real name is Nicolas Rodriguez.
Last week, a regional commander of the ELN seemingly frustrated said that the talks have shown “minimal” progress.
The top ELN boss tried to soften the tone, clarifying that the peace process cannot be easy.
“It’s important to be conscious that there have been 50 years of confrontation and that the talks are held between true enemies. However, the urgency to open a way to find peace in Colombia has made it possible for us to sit down and talk, and agree that it is essential to find a political solution to the conflict.”
Gabino said his rebel group had a “clear disposition” to begin formal talks similar to those held with the FARC, an ideological ally of the ELN but assumed to be three times its size.
The ELN chief called on state authorities to give a “clear sign” to indicate a mutual will to a political solution to the 50-year-long armed conflict, claiming he was unaware of the opinion of Colombia’s judicial and legislative branches regarding a possible peace deal.
In spite of alleged attempts by “enemies of peace” to derail possibilities for a negotiated solution, Gabino said to be sure peace talks can count on the support of the Colombian population, claiming the country “wants peace [and] needs peace.”
The rebel leader again urged the importance of agreeing to a bilateral ceasefire between warring parties as “this would create a very important atmosphere for the negotiations and would lessen the effects of the conflict, especially in the areas” where the ELN “is suffering the impact of counter-guerrilla operation.”
Both the FARC and ELN have been fighting the Colombian state since 1964 in a conflict that has cost more than 220,000 Colombian lives.