Colombia, ELN announce bilateral cease-fire
President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed Monday a bilateral cease-fire between the government and ELN guerrillas.
"Today, on Sept. 4, exactly five years after we announced the agreed format for peace dialogues with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which has led us to peace with that guerrilla organization, we are going to sign an agreement to declare a bilateral cease-fire with the National Liberation Army (ELN), after intense negotiations which ended early this morning," Santos said at a news conference.
The cease-fire, reached in Ecuador, will take effect Oct. 1 and last until Jan. 12. "It will be renewed as each deadline arrives and as the negotiations on each point of the agenda advance," according to Santos.
He insisted the priority is to ensure Colombians are protected from rebel attacks and kidnappings, as well as attacks on oil pipelines.
The ELN released a statement on Twitter that thanked "those who have unwaveringly supported efforts," to reach the cease-fire.
Both sides wanted to reach the deal before a visit by Pope Frances who pushed for a truce in Colombia.
"Pope Francisco, whose words always encourage us to persist in the struggle for peace-will arrive on Wednesday to a new Colombia, a different Colombia, and how are we welcoming our visitor? With great emotion and profound respect and with the huge news which we are sure will please him," Santos said.
The ELN was formed in 1964 and has an estimated 2,500 fighters who are strategically placed across Colombia and in oil producing areas.
It remains the only rebel outfit in Colombia since the country's largest guerrilla group, the FARC, turned over its weapons earlier this year and transitions to a political party.