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Colombia’s ELN rebel group proposes 3-month ceasefire ahead of papal visit

Colombia's ELN rebel group said that it has proposed a temporary three-month ceasefire during peace talks with the government in Quito, Ecuador

Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group said on Tuesday, July 25 that it has proposed a three-month ceasefire during peace talks with the government, Reuters reported.

“This would be a starting bilateral ceasefire, it’s not the end of the conflict, it’s temporary – with the possibility of extending it to generate trust,” ELN negotiator Bernardo Tellez said.

“The idea is for the temporary ceasefire to be for three months and to take actions to alleviate the civilian population,” he added.

The government’s chief negotiator, Juan Camilo Restrepo responded, tweeting that the ELN has not begun discussion of the technical aspects of a possible ceasefire, adding that without a cessation of hostilities there will be no ceasefire.

The government and the ELN entered formal peace talks in February, and a new round of negotiations began in Quito, Ecuador on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Tellez said ELN was “specifying the conditions for a ceasefire. Our idea is that this bilateral ceasefire should start days or possibly weeks before the pope’s arrival in the Colombian city of Villavicencio.”

Both the government and the ELN have said that they want to reach a ceasefire agreement before Pope Francis’s visit to the country which is expected to begin on September 6.

The government previously refused to negotiate a ceasefire until after a peace agreement is signed, but after an intercession from the Colombian Catholic Church, President Juan Manuel Santos’s administration said it would accept a bilateral ceasefire if the ELN also ends kidnappings, violence against civilians and attacks on the country’s oil infrastructure.

On Sunday, Restrepo tweeted that the third round of talks would focus on making “progress on the issue of a cessation of hostilities.”

In a Sunday statement, ELN stressed “the possibility and responsibility” it would agree to a bilateral ceasefire that could see an end to the armed conflict that began in 1964.

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