On the one-year anniversary of the announcement of peace talks with Colombia’s government, ELN rebels said Thursday an agreement on landmine removal is impending.
The guerrilla group has been negotiating peace with the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos since early February in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito.
While the war front has seemed more eventful than the peace talks in these months, progress has been made to the point that a deal on landmine removal could be announced on April 7.
“We hope that on April 7 when the first round closes, we will be able to show the first elements of a deal,” the guerrillas’ chief negotiator, Pablo Beltran, said in an interview with Caracol Radio in reference to landmine removal.
According to the rebel leader, both the ELN and the government “are looking for ways to reduce the intensity of conflict” which has proceeded unabated in Colombia while in Quito the warring parties talk.
Since talks with the ELN began, paramilitary group AGC has begun an apparent territorial offensive in the western jungles of the country, which has already led to the deaths of five civilians and the displacement of hundreds.
In one of their strongholds in the northeast of Colombia, the guerrillas killed two soldiers in an attack earlier this week.
“Military activity continues … we have every military force after us, aerial bombardments, paramilitaries,” Beltran said.
Colombia’s last-standing guerrilla group has been at war with the state since 1964. The conflict that has involved multiple other parties has cost the lives of more than 265,000 Colombians and displaced 7 million.