Colombian Government and ELN Agree to Coordinate Landmine Removal
nsnbc : The government of Colombia and the last standing leftist guerrilla the National Liberation Army (ELN) reached an agreement on the joint removal of landmines as part of the ongoing peace talks.
Speaking at the first joint press conference since official peace talks were launched after a one-year delay in Quito, Ecuador, two months ago, the delegations of the government and the ELN announced that they would begin cooperating to cope with the logistical challenges posed by a joint landmine removal program.
Government chief negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo and ELN chief negotiator “Pablo Beltran” also announced that the government and the ELN, during the second round of official talks, scheduled to begin on May 3, would focus on effective ways to de-escalate violence.
The de-escalation of the armed conflict between the government and the ELN is a complex issue that also involves security concerns in normally ELN controlled areas where right-wing neo-paramilitaries try to fill the power vacuum and pose a threat to liberal and leftist politicians and grassroots activists.
Beltran described the potential joint landmine removal as “the first humanitarian action” and expressed hope that such actions and pending agreements to de-escalate violence will ultimately lead to a bilateral ceasefire. The ELN had requested such a bilateral ceasefire at least one year before the launch of the official talks. Beltran said:
“We will dedicate a part of the talks to humanitarian actions that in themselves will accumulate to form a cessation of violence. That means we are going to progressively create a climate of peace, to reduce the intensity of the conflict.”
Beltran added that “Pastor Alape” and “Antonio Lozada”, two senior members of the demobilizing FARC rebel group, traveled to Quito to synchronize the ELN’s peace talks in Ecuador with the FARC’s ongoing peace process.
Government chief negotiator Restrepo also expressed hope that a bilateral ceasefire, as soon as possible, would bring an end to 53 years of armed conflict and violence. The ELN started its armed insurrection against the Colombian State in 1964. The ELN anchored its ideology in Marxism and liberation theology.
A/N & CH/L – nsnbc 09.04.2017