The secretary general of the United Nations (UN) expressed hope that initial talks between Colombia’s government and rebel group ELN will bring a lasting peace to the country.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the UN’s willingness to support the peace process in Colombia citing the combined progress of ongoing peace talks with the country’s largest rebel group the FARC and the new development of dialogues with the ELN, according to a UN spokesman.
“Combined with the progress already achieved in the ongoing talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the secretary general hopes that this new development will contribute to ending the hemisphere’s longest armed conflict and to building a sustainable peace for the Colombian people,” said the spokesman.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Tuesday the beginning of exploratory talks with ELN delegates with the agenda being “to find a mechanism that will lead to peace in the Andean country and compensate the victims of the armed conflict that has lasted a half-century,” Latin American news outlet Telesur reported on Tuesday.
After two years of on-again, off-again communication between the ELN and the Colombian government, the warring parties announced the peace talks less than one week ahead of the presidential elections taking place June 15.
Hard-lined presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga criticized the incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos over the deal, calling it opportunistic and part of a political agenda in the run-up to elections.
Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, since November 2012 and are currently being held in Havana, Cuba.
The two parties have already agreed upon three points out of a six-point agenda which includes agrarian reform, political participation rights, illicit drugs, victims’ rights, demobilization, and an overall peace agreement.