ELN rebels refuse to join Petro-announced ceasefire, claiming “no agreement”

Bogota, Jan 3 (EFE).- The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas on Tuesday announced that they are not observing the bilateral ceasefire announced on the evening of Dec. 31 by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, claining that “there is still no agreement on that matter” and that they do not accept “a unilateral decree of the government as an accord.”

“On various occasions we have said that the ELN will only abide by what is discussed and agreed to at the Dialogue Table in which we’re participating (that is, the negotiations that are under way in Caracas),” said the ELN in a communique dated Jan. 1 and released on Tuesday by the rebel group.

In the statement, the ELN said that its delegation at the peace talks “has not discussed with the government of Gustavo Petro any proposal for a bilateral ceasefire” and that in the past round of talks, which ended on Dec. 12 in the Venezuelan capital, “the only thing that was agreed to was what was announced referring to the institutionalization of the (Diaglogue) Table” and to starting to make “adjustments to the agenda.”

In that regard, the guerrilla group added that during the next round of talks, which will be held this month in Mexico, negotiators will finalize the adjustment of the agenda for the talks and once this phase is concluded they will be “willing to discuss the proposed bilateral ceasefire, (and) to examine the terms that may make an agreement possible.”

“We understand the government’s decree as a proposal to be examined in the upcoming round,” the rebel group concluded.

On Dec. 19, the ELN had announced a “unilateral ceasefire” that was in effect from Dec.24 until Jan. 2 “to create an environment of peace” between Christmas and New Year’s.

The ELN is the largest of the five illegal armed groups included by Petro in the bilateral ceasefire when he announced it late on the evening of Dec. 31 and which sparked enthusiasm and hope in Colombia, despite being received with caution.

The ceasefire, to last six months until June 20, will be “renewable according to advances in the negotiations,” Petro said shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The groups that Petro said had joined the bilateral ceasefire, aside from the ELN, were the Central General Staff of dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Segunda Marquetalia, the Gaitinista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC) and the paramilitaries of the Sierra Nevada.

According to the information provided by the President’s Office, the ceasefire will be monitored and verified both nationally and internationally by the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP/OEA), the Ombudsman’s Office and the Catholic Church.

For the moment, “a ceasefire is not being contemplated with other organizations,” the President’s Office added, but the administration will review the results of the processes under way and other unilateral ceasefires in making future decisions.

The UN Verification Mission, as well as the MAPP/OEA and the Catholic Church expressed their support for the ceasefire and their readiness to cooperate in facilitating it.

EFE –/bp

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