The National Liberation Army (ELN) is willing to continue peace negotiations with the Colombia government, the ELN head of the Cuban delegation talks, Pablo Beltran, said Wednesday.
Colombia’s second largest insurgent group is willing to concede to select demands in order to reach an agreement with President Ivan Duque on the condition that the state guarantees safety for ELN militia.
“If he does not like the current protocols, we can renegotiate them; but he is the only one who can give us these guarantees,” Beltran told local media.
The peace talks drew to a halt after an attack on the National Police compound in Bogota on Dec. 25 left 20 dead. After which, the Colombian officials demanded Cuba to hand over the ELN peace delegation.
Former Minister Alvaro Leyva supported the call, reminding official of the impending danger which will ultimately follow without peace negotiations.
“You have to think about the country. How many deaths can be avoided if there are peace dialogues, that is the question we must ask ourselves. What happened at the Santander General School was very serious but more tragedies can be avoided,” Alvaro said.
In a show of good faith, the ELN released three civilian helicopter crew members who were taken with the sum of US$550,000 cash found on board the smoldering aircraft on Jan. 11.
The ELN leaders in Cuba have said they will not leave unless Duque complies with conditions agreed to by his predecessor for their return home in the case of a breakdown in talks.
Though the ELN claimed responsibility for the Bogota bombing in a statement, calling it a legitimate act of war, the negotiators said they had no prior knowledge of the attack.
Duque has repeatedly said talks will not begin again until all ELN prisoners are freed.
Cuba previously hosted negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, which demobilized in 2017 and is now a political party. (https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Colombia-ELN-Urges-a-Return-to-Peace-Agreement-Negotiations-20190206-0034.html)