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Colombia’s ELN rebel group announces ceasefire ahead of papal visit

Arauca, ELN, Eastern Front, September 2012. Image: Oscar Paciencia/flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group said on Monday, September 4 that it had agreed to a temporary bilateral ceasefire during peace talks with the government.

ELN announced the pause in fighting on its official Twitter account.

In July, ELN negotiator Bernardo Tellez said the two sides were considering a three-month pause in fighting ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia.

“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,” he said.

Colombian President Juan Miguel Santos said the ceasefire will begin on October 1.

Months of negotiations

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

At the time, 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.”

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