United Nations chief Guterres headed to Colombia as peace talks falter

Elias Hubbard
January 14, 2018

A fifth round of peace talks with the ELN was planned to begin Wednesday in Ecuador, but with the withdrawal of Colombia's lead negotiator the future of any talks is in doubt.

Violence erupted across Colombia following the end of a temporary ceasefire with the country's largest active guerrilla group, casting doubt over the future of ongoing peace negotiations amid concerns that the rebels used the break in fighting to strengthen themselves.

Rebels with the National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish acronym ELN, and government delegates had both expressed hopes of reaching a new agreement on an extended case-fire during a fresh round of peace talks that were expected to start yesterday in Ecuador.

ELN commander Pablo Beltran called on the government to reconsider, insisting his side wanted the talks on extending the ceasefire to continue.

Santos said the ELN had resumed "its terrorist attacks against the civilian population, the armed forces and infrastructure".

The talks are complicated by a lack of confidence between the parties and upcoming votes to elect a new president and congress.

At the council meeting, the United Nations envoy for Colombia, Jean Arnault, said the clamor for a suspension of military action by the ELN has been unanimous throughout the country, "notwithstanding the many imperfections of the cease-fire".

The members of the Security Council reiterated their full support for the peace process in Colombia and shared the assessment of the Secretary-General set out in his first report on the work of the United Nations Verification Mission. The government said that the rebels attacked the pipeline with three bombs.

"I would like to assure you that the government is not walking away from peace", Colombian Vice President Oscar Naranjo told the council. "I think that our government has demonstrated to the entire world that we, in particular our president, are proponents and champions of peace". Monseñor Darío de Jesús Monsalve said in a statement: "In these circumstances. someone has to break the cycle and turn it into a cycle of peace".

From the beginning, the Colombian government was skeptical of whether or not ELN leaders could ensure compliance among their ranks if a peace deal were in fact achieved.

The ELN, founded by radical Roman Catholic priests in 1964, has sought peace with the government before but made little progress. The ELN has said it will not extend the truce under the original terms and wants a new deal.

Without a ceasefire prohibiting the practice, The rebels could return to extorting communities to finance their decades-old uprising.

The warring parties agreed to continue negotiating a new ceasefire in support of peace talks that began in February a year ago.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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