"In the search for the main objective – peace in Colombia – we can't step back," ELN Commander Pablo Beltran said.
Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) is willing to continue the ongoing peace dialogue with incoming President-Elect Ivan Duque's negotiating team, the group announced Thursday.
"A government is leaving and we will wait for the arrival of a new delegation," said Pablo Beltran, the ELN's chief peace negotiator, in a press conference in Havana, Cuba, where the dialogue has been taking place.
The sixth round of talks between the insurgent group and the Colombian government, headed by outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos, failed to reach a final agreement, although both parties said "important advances" had been made.
"About 80 percent of the basis for a ceasefire have been agreed upon," said ELN commander, member of the peace delegation and chief ceasefire negotiator Bernardo Tellez.
The last two rounds were focused on reaching a new, temporary and national bilateral ceasefire, similar to the one between October 1, 2017 and January 9, 2018.
But Tellez pointed out that an agreement of this kind must go beyond the end of military hostilities and include "humanitarian relief" for the communities affected by poverty and the armed conflict.
He also highlighted the ever-spiralling murders of social leaders despite the peace agreement that was reached between the government and the former insurgent group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
"In the search for the main objective – peace in Colombia – we can't step back," said Beltran, quoting a statement published by the ELN on Wednesday.
Asked about the possibility of Duque's government ignoring progress in the peace dialogues and starting them from scratch, Beltran said the delegation would wait until the new terms were announced: "Whatever the terms are, we will listen to them, because it's a negotiation to reach a middle point."
Duque campaigned on a platform that was critical of the peace agreements, but later said he would seek new conditions instead of rejecting the agreements entirely. He is due to be sworn in on August 7.
Santos' government and the ELN came together for the first time in 2012, but the dialogue process wasn't made public until February 2017.