Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has confirmed that peace talks will go ahead with the country’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, declaring that, “the political responsibility for the peace process rests on my shoulders.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, Santos confirmed the news that peace talks would begin with the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Peace talks with the ELN
“This comprehensive peace process with the FARC and now the ELN, is the best guarantee for the victims of this country and for the country to end this conflict forever and for it to never be repeated,” said Santos, once more pledging to end the armed conflict.
He announced that an “exploratory” phase of talks had been underway with the ELN since January 2014, after a series of individual meetings in 2013.
|“Political responsibility for this new peace effort rests solely on my shoulders and on the shoulders of nobody else.”|
He added that along with the ELN he had decided to announce the opening of peace talks due to the fact that the current process in Havana had, “entered its final phase,” and that it was his, “responsibility as President to inform the country of the existence of this peace effort.”
Santos did not reveal many details about this new peace process other than stating that there will be no bilateral ceasefire during the talks, in a similar way to the current ongoing peace talks between the government and the FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla organisation.
This is the opportunity. Peace is possible. Let us prepare for peace.
He also declared that talks would take place abroad so as to ensure partiality in the talks, saying that it would remain a, “serious, dignified, realistic and effective process.”
Peace with the ELN would necessitate the same conditions as the FARC, namely an end to the conflict and the handover of all weapons and munitions.
Santos also thanked the countries that had accompanied the preliminary phase of the peace talks, including, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Norway and Venezuela, as well as, “all persons who in good faith have contributed to this effort.”
Santos continued by assuring that, “political responsibility for this new peace effort rests solely on my shoulders and on the shoulders of nobody else.”
“This is the opportunity. Peace is possible. Let us prepare for peace,” concluded Santos.
Earlier on Tuesday, news broke that the Colombian government and the ELN had announced the beginning of formal peace talks.
The ELN (National Liberation Army) and the government have been fighting since 1964. Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, was originally formed as a Marxist-Leninist/Liberation Theology movement. Today however, the group as currently constituted bears little resemblance to its founding ideology. The ELN regularly kidnaps and targets multinational oil corporations in its rebellious acts, as its strongholds are found in oil-rich areas.
Peace negotiations in 2002 and 2004 between the rebel group and the administration of Alvaro Uribe failed and military pressure intensified. In response, the ELN allied itself with drug gangs such as the Rastrojos to remain intact. The ELN currently has about 2,000 combatants as opposed to the 8,000 currently fighting with larger Colombian rebel group, the FARC.