In a significant development for peace in Colombia, the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) have reached an agreement on a six-month ceasefire. The historic accord was announced at a ceremony held in Cuba and witnessed by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, ELN leader Antonio García, and officials from both sides.
The ceasefire, set to commence in August and extend for six months, will be implemented in stages, with the hope of gradually reducing violence and creating a conducive environment for peace talks. The agreement marks a crucial step forward in ending decades of conflict between the Colombian government and the ELN, which has been fighting for socialist ideals and greater political representation.
As part of the ceasefire agreement, the Colombian government and the ELN have also agreed to form a national committee tasked with deliberating on a lasting peace deal by the end of July. This committee will engage in comprehensive discussions on various issues related to the conflict, including political reforms and social integration.
The negotiations, initially scheduled to conclude on Thursday, were extended to address remaining details and ensure a comprehensive and satisfactory agreement. Both sides expressed their commitment to resolving conflicts through political and diplomatic means, emphasizing the importance of dialogue in achieving long-lasting peace.
However, ELN commander Antonio García described the ceasefire as a procedural step and emphasized the need for more substantive reforms in Colombia. The ELN has been critical of the Colombian government’s approach and has called for broader societal changes that address the root causes of the conflict, such as socio-economic inequality and rural development.
These talks mark a significant resumption of dialogue between the Colombian government and the ELN. Negotiations had previously taken place between the two parties but were interrupted in 2019. The situation was further complicated when former President Iván Duque’s administration issued arrest warrants for ELN leaders residing in Cuba. However, Cuba refused to extradite them, leading to a stalemate.
With the election of Gustavo Petro as president of Colombia in November, negotiations were revived, and the process gained momentum. President Petro has been a strong advocate for peace, calling for the demobilization of all remaining rebel organizations and drug trafficking gangs in Colombia as a means to achieve this.