Colombia's ELN rebels call for extraordinary meeting to revive peace talks

  • World
  • Tuesday, 09 Apr 2024

FILE PHOTO: The fifth round of peace dialogues between Colombia's government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) is held in Mexico City, Mexico December 17, 2023. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian leftist rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) has requested an extraordinary meeting with the government, saying peace talks were in a "critical state," sources from the government and the rebel group said.

President Gustavo Petro restarted talks with the ELN at the end of 2022 as part of his efforts to end Colombia's six-decade conflict, which killed at least 450,000 people, by inking peace or surrender deals with armed groups.

"We do not see sufficient conditions to carry on with the usual cycle of conversations between our delegation and representatives of the national government," the ELN said in a letter sent on Monday to Vera Grabe, head of the government's delegation.

The contents of the letter were shared with Reuters by a government source, while a source from the ELN confirmed its authenticity.

"Due to the critical state of the talks, we propose inviting delegates from guarantor countries to this extraordinary meeting, so that they can exercise their role in helping both parties," the letter said, requesting meetings begin in Venezuela from April 12.

The government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ELN and the government have held six rounds of talks so far, resulting in a bilateral ceasefire, the establishment of a multi-donor fund to finance the process and a pledge from the ELN to suspend kidnappings for ransom.

But the rebels said in February the negotiations were in crisis, though the two sides later said they expected another round of talks this month.

The group, founded by radical Catholic priests, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union. It has some nearly 6,000 members, about half of them combatants.

At least 40% of its fighters could reject a peace deal, security sources told Reuters last year.

Negotiations are supported by guarantors Mexico, Norway, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and Chile.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Ros Russell)

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