“It is not true that we will announce the formal launch of peace talks with the ELN in the coming hours or the coming days,” the President said at a public meeting in southwest Colombia.
Former Senator Piedad Cordoba had said earlier that day that the formal talks would be announced within days, if not hours.
Cordoba has long been a leading force on the left and a promoter of talks between leftist armed groups and the government.
However, according to Santos, “we have a way to go, and hopefully it will be as soon as possible, but we also do not want to raise expectations, or generate false expectations,” Santos added.
The President finally clarified that “the country and the world will know immediately,” once an agreement to commence peace negotiations with the guerrillas has been settled on.
Santos’ comments were a clear reaction to local media reports on Saturday morning that a crucial peace talk announcement was imminent later that day.
Seven months after preliminary peace negotiations were announced, the Government’s apparent reluctance to neither commit nor compromise could damage the credibility of recent advances towards the ceasing of more than 50 years of war.
The ELN have reiterated their frustration with the stagnating nature of the peace talks and their perception that the government is not cooperating as they claim.
To the contrary, the government have expressed suspicion towards the ELN’s pushes for ceasefires, as they could provide crucial opportunity to re-group and re-arm.
Guerrilla leader “Antonio Garcia”, whose real name is Eliecer Chamorro, told Argentinian news outlet Marcha that the ELN had requested preliminary peace talks be taken to the next level just last week.
“The government claims the process is slow and that it is our fault. For us the lesson is well learned: the government is not in the hurry to make peace reality, even if it claims otherwise,” added Garcia.
The Marxist ELN was founded in 1964 and has since taken part in several unsuccessful peace talks.