Talks between the Colombian government and the ELN have been postponed until January 10, the government’s chief negotiator said.
The start of formal negotiations on October 27 was over a year and a half in the making, but just three hours before the ceremonial opening talks was set to begin the government cancelled over a hostage dispute.
According to the government, the ELN was supposed to release ex-congressman Odin Sanchez before the negotiations, while the ELN claimed the agreement was this would happen during the first round of talks.
The ELN said it would release Sanchez, but only if the government releases two ELN guerrillas, which according to the rebels was the agreed humanitarian trade-off for during the first round.
This new round of talks aim to establish a date for formal negotiations and resolve the newly imposed conditions of both parties.
This development is a step backward from the formal peace talks that were supposed to begin on November 3 already.
In the statement in Quito, the government’s negotiators maintained their position on negotiations.
“The government hopes that during these weeks, the ELN will not only carry out the requested consultations, but that Odín Sanchez will be released to his family in the shortest time possible.“
Juan Camilo Restrepo
They maintained that while willing to abide by their agreement to release two ELN prisoners “cases subject to this procedure must strictly comply with the conditions provided by applicable law” prohibiting amnesty for kidnapping and murder.
The ELN demands the release of Wigberto Chamorro and Juan Cuellar, who will be “agents of peace.”
One of the requested prisoners, Wigberto Chamorro, was arrested for kidnapping a US citizen in 2014.
Wigberto is the brother of ELN second-in-command “Antonio Garcia.”
Despite the negotiations, the government and the ELN have not agreed to a ceasefire, and conflict between the two is ongoing.