Spain could be the new venue for Colombian peace talks, if the ELN accepts

Spain could be the new venue for Colombian peace talks, if the ELN accepts

The President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, offered his country as the venue for the peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the ELN guerrillas, a proposal with which his Colombian counterpart Gustavo Petro said he agreed, although he added that the final decision depends on the insurgent negotiators.

“We offer ourselves to help achieve peace and, therefore, if these peace talks can be hosted in Spain, we would be willing,” Sánchez, on an official visit to Bogotá, said Wednesday during an interview with the Colombian WRadius.

The Spanish president and Petro discussed bilateral relations and other topics during a meeting at the Casa de Nariño. At a press conference after the meeting, Petro thanked Spain for the invitation, although he insisted that it is the ELN negotiators who must now propose whether the talks are held in Havana or if they change venue.

Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla and leftist, intends to put an end to the Colombian conflict through bilateral agreements such as the one reached with the FARC in 2016. Just four days after taking office, Petro sent a delegation of high-ranking officials to Havana to discuss the reopening of the dialogues with the ELN, suspended indefinitely by his predecessor, Iván Duque, in 2019, after the bloody attack by the insurgents on the Bogotá cadet school.

Duque ended the negotiations and issued arrest warrants for the guerrillas. Havana refused to extradite them, citing the diplomatic protocols of the talks. The ELN peace delegation has remained in the Cuban capital all this time under heavy security.

Now, Petro has lifted those search warrants in order to speed up the resumption of negotiations.

Spain will be at the head of the European Union from the second half of 2023, which would help the eventual transfer of the talks from Havana to Madrid. However, for the guerrillas, their proximity to Cuba could weigh when choosing the headquarters.

The Caribbean island has said for its part that it has no problem continuing as guarantor and host.

“There is little international news to celebrate. Peace in Colombia is one of the few. Spain accompanies peace processes in Latin America. Given our brotherhood, we show ourselves with all the disposition to contribute to that peace. It has to be the parties that finally say,” Sánchez said at the joint press conference.

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Written by Editor TLN

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