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Published On: Wed, Dec 20th, 2017

Colombia’s ELN to become a primary military target if ceasefire isn’t extended: General Alberto Mejia

nsnbc : Colombia’s leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) will become a primary military target if the current ceasefire isn’t extended, said General Alberto Mejia. The ELN, for its part, said it will extend its ceasefire if talks with the government continue to make progress.

Colombia_ELN_Bilateral ceasefire_Sep 2017Colombia’s leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) said earlier this week in a letter to the United Nations published on Twitter: “We are willing to agree on a new ceasefire once we have jointly evaluated at the negotiating table the progress, confidence and results of the current one”.

In its letter, the ELN addressed the head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, Jean Arnault and stated further that an agreement with the government would see the ELN’s part of the bilateral ceasefire that began on October 1 extended beyond the initial January 9 deadline.

UN observers verified 27 violations of the ceasefire over the past couple of months. However, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week urged both the ELN and the government to work towards an extension claiming that “violence has diminished and the humanitarian situation has improved.”

Peace negotiations are ongoing between the two sides in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito. As usual, there can be observed some posturing prior to an official commitment. General Alberto Mejia, the new head of Colombia’s Armed Forces, clarified that should an extension not be agreed, the ELN will be prioritized as a military target again.

Speaking to the El Tiempo newspaper General Mejia said: “January 9 ends the temporary national bilateral suspension with the ELN and we do not know what will happen in that negotiation. If we are commanded that there is no ceasefire, the ELN will be the priority. If the president orders that the bilateral ceasefire be extended, that priority will be dissidence. We are very clear about the order of priorities.”

Official peace talks between the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the ELN leadership began in February 2017. The talks were launched after an almost one year-long delay. One of the concerns a source close to the ELN expressed to nsnbc was that emerging crime cartels, some of them new, others with links to right-wing paramilitaries, are threatening security in traditionally ELN controlled areas, apparently counting on the fact that ELN guerrilla will think more than twice before they retaliate and endanger the peace talks.

A/N & CH/L – nsnbc 20.12.2017

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