Father Dario Echeverria Gonzalez, the secretary of the National Conciliation Commission of the Episcopal conference, indicated that Colombia's insurgency group, the National Liberation Army, ELN, has expressed its desire to engage in renewed peace talks with the Colombian government.
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Echeverria Gonzalez assured that the Church is actively seeking a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, as well as the government's chief peace negotiator, Gustavo Bell, to restart the peace talks and reach an agreement.
"The Church is committed to speaking with the government of President Santos and with Dr. Bell himself, to encourage them to proceed with a dose of generosity to continue the negotiation and take it to a spot where the process is irreversible."
If such a process is not possible, Echeverria Gonzalez said that such engagement between the government and the insurgency group should provide a robust framework for the new government to come in and successfully proceed with peace negotiations. Colombia's presidential elections take place in May 2018.
Echeverria Gonzalez's announcement was made one week after a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, between the ELN delegation and the Church, according to Nodal.
Pablo Beltran, the ELN's chief peace negotiator, called for the resumption of peace talks last week, saying the group is open "to a new and better bilateral ceasefire.” Beltran’s statement was made a day after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declared the suspension of peace talks after three bomb attacks on police stations across Colombia killed seven officers and wounded dozens.
"My patience and that of the Colombian people have their limits," Santos said while instructing state security officials to "maintain a force against armed groups operating outside the law." Santos’ declarations made clear that the government would halt further meetings with the ELN.
The ELN, for its part, has contested the government’s attempts to blame the group for an escalation in violence, saying they “fulfilled the 101 days of ceasefire in spite of the military offensive launched by the government towards the end of October, when they attacked our camps in El Choco and Norte de Santander.”