The Colombian government recognized on Friday the “legitimacy” of the ELN negotiating commission to resume peace talks in Cuba and announced that both parties agree on the need to restart the dialogue suspended four years ago.
“Both parties agree on the need to restart a dialogue process with facts that show Colombian society and the world that this will is real,” said High Commissioner for Peace Danilo Rueda, reading a statement in Havana.
In front of the ELN delegation, headed by Pablo Beltrán, guerrilla leader for the dialogues during the interrupted negotiations in 2018, Rueda officially recognized “the legitimacy of the dialogue delegation of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the search for peace” .
The Colombian government delegation, accompanied by Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, met on Friday with members of this guerrilla based in Havana since 2018.
The meeting took place days after the coming to power of Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first left-wing president, who proposes new peace agreements with the ELN and other armed organizations, as well as the end of the “war on drugs”, which he considers a failure.
The government delegation was able to “verify that the ELN shares the will of the Colombian government” and that they are listening to the sectors of society that are clamoring for a negotiated solution to the armed conflict.
Rueda said that the government will adopt “all legal and political measures” to guarantee the conditions that allow a return to the negotiating table.
Present at the meeting were the guarantors of the talks, Norway and Cuba, as well as representatives of the UN Secretary General and the Colombian Episcopal Conference.
Previously, the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, had met with the two parties to ratify “Cuba’s invariable commitment and the unwavering will to continue contributing to the achievement of the long-awaited peace for Colombia,” according to the president himself in his twitter account.
I held a meeting with representatives of the government of #Colombia and the ELN, parties to the peace process in that country, together with the guarantors of Norway and #Cubaand representatives of the UN Secretary General and the Colombian Episcopal Conference. pic.twitter.com/5GeGGxsWT8
– Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) August 12, 2022
Video of the meeting recorded by Canal Caribe, operated by the Informative System of Cuban Television.
Former President Juan Manuel Santos, who negotiated peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana, also began peace talks with the ELN in 2017.
However, his successor Iván Duque buried them a year later after an attack on a police school that left 22 dead, in addition to the aggressor.
Although the peace pact that demobilized the FARC in 2017 eased political violence, Colombia is experiencing a sharp upsurge in violence due to armed groups that profit from drug trafficking and illegal mining.