It was reported that the third round of negotiations, which started in Cuba, between the Colombian government and the armed rebel organization National Liberation Army (ELN) will continue from where it left off.
The parties, who issued a joint statement in Havana, said, “In this round, we reiterate our commitment to reach a bilateral and national ceasefire agreement and peacebuilding with the participation of all the dynamics of the society. We will continue to develop a common vision for the solutions that the country needs.” made statements.
Pointing out the importance of not leaving the dialogue table in any way, it was noted that serious progress has been made in the negotiations.
President Gustavo Petro’s accusation of ELN leadership of smuggling after meeting with senior officials from the armed forces caused tension between the parties.
The ELN side, on the other hand, reacted to Petro’s statements and stated that the peace talks were in crisis and the government should be more consistent towards the whole world.
The chief negotiator of the organization, Pablo Beltran (Israel Ramirez), reminded of their negotiations with the Colombian government, “If the President speaks differently and the table speaks differently, we will be left in the middle. All we want is an explanation.” had used the phrase.
Peace High Commissioner Ivan Danilo Rueda reminded that the Colombian government sees the ELN as an armed rebel organization and accepts the organization’s political structure.
Back to the negotiating table after three years
The parties, which met in the capital Caracas, under the guarantor and host of Venezuela, resumed the peace talks suspended in 2019 on November 22, 2022.
The meeting, in which Norwegian and Venezuelan observers were also present, was led by Patino, a former member of the M-19 (April 19 movement) on behalf of the Colombian government, and Beltran led the ELN delegation.
In the first round of talks, a ceasefire could not be reached on December 13, 2022, but a decision was made to improve humanitarian aid and conditions for imprisoned ELN militants in some regions.
The second round of peace talks, which started in Mexico on February 14, was concluded with the recognition of the “political status of the ELN”.
Left-wing Gustavo Petro, who won the presidential election in Colombia and took over on August 7, 2022, promised to implement the 2016 Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and to hold peace talks with the ELN when he came to power.
History of negotiations with the ELN
Colombia started negotiations with the ELN, which were interrupted many times during the Santos era. Negotiations had moved to Havana after Ecuador withdrew from the guarantor and host.
According to experts, previous attempts at negotiation between the Colombian government and the ELN, which has more than 2,000 members and is estimated to be funding through drug smuggling, illegal mining and kidnapping, could not progress due to the diffuse division of power and radical attitudes within the organization.
Negotiations were suspended by then-President Ivan Duque after the organization’s attack on a police school in 2019 killed 22 people.