Mexico City, Feb 13 (EFE).- Colombia’s government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group on Monday kicked off a second round of peace negotiations in Mexico’s capital, where the chief objective is to reach agreement on a bilateral cease-fire.
“We’re here (thanks to) the impetus that Colombian President Gustavo Petro has given to peace as state policy,” Otty Patiño, head of the government’s delegation, said at the launch of the new round of talks at the headquarters of Mexico City’s Inter-American Conference of Social Security.
He said the negotiators will be expected to achieve concrete results in this new stage, stressing that what is agreed at the table will be implemented in the territories.”
Reaching an agreement on a bilateral cease-fire will be the key item on the agenda in the new round, which is expected to last three weeks.
“Our agenda is to seek transformations and bring an end to the armed conflict, with the determination to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace,” Pablo Beltran, the head of the ELN’s delegation, said.
He said “preparations” for a “temporary and nationwide bilateral cease-fire” will be discussed.
Another topic to be addressed in Mexico City concerns the role of society in peace-building efforts,
Although both sides want to involve women, civil society and rural farmers in that work, they have different visions about the mechanics of the process.
Sources close to the talks told Efe that the sides are cautiously optimistic ahead of the new round, although they recognized the enormous complexity that surrounds the decades-old Colombian armed conflict.
Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said for his part that the gathering is a “historic day for reconciliation in Colombia” and expressed pride that his country is hosting this new round of talks.
Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN were launched in 2016 under then-President Juan Manuel Santos, whose administration had reached a historic peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group that same year.
But right-wing President Ivan Duque suspended the talks with the Colombian rebel group in January 2019, after the rebels carried out a car bombing at a police academy that killed more than a score of cadets.
The negotiations were then resumed on Nov. 22, 2022, in Venezuela by Petro, a former member of the M-19 guerrilla group and Colombia’s first-ever leftist head of state.
Although Petro announced on Dec. 31 that a six-month bilateral cease-fire had taken effect, the ELN said shortly afterward that no such agreement had been reached during the talks.
Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Norway and Brazil are serving as guarantors for the peace talks, while Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Spain are accompanying the process. EFE