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Colombia Continues Peace Talks with ELN Guerrillas


Colombia peace talks
Colombia continues peace talks with ELN guerrillas in Havana, Cuba. Credit: @DelegacionEln / X

The peace talks between the Colombian state and the ELN guerrilla continue. The sixth round began yesterday in Havana, Cuba, with a view to the possible extension of the ceasefire that expires on January 29, six months after it began. In the last round, held in Mexico between December 4 and 17 of last year, important issues were discussed such as the end of extortive kidnappings, a thorny issue that the armed band committed itself to stop practicing.

It is expected that their commitment will be ratified in this new meeting. It would be the confirmation of the most significant advance in a peace process that began in November 2022. On this occasion, the way in which civil society will be able to participate in achieving peace will also be discussed. This new round will last two weeks.

Removing the civilian population from the conflict

The government’s main objective is to remove the population, definitively, from the armed conflict and its consequences. With the end of kidnappings and respect for the lives of civilians, the state seeks a total commitment from the armed group to consolidate the peace process.

“In the fifth round we achieved precise, concrete results, now we must renew the ceasefire and make its extension imply compliance with very serious commitments to suspend kidnapping,” said Senator Ivan Cepeda, one of the leaders of the state’s peace delegation.

The rejection of kidnappings has been, since December, a red line for the government, as well as for international players who have expressed themselves on the matter. One example is the special representative for Colombia to the UN Security Council, who emphasized that the prohibition of this practice must be explicit. Similarly, Pope Francis also referred to this issue. In his meeting this month with President Gustavo Petro in the Vatican, the head of the Catholic Church called for the “unconditional release of all kidnapped persons” in Colombia.

Vatican could host dialogues

In this same January 19 meeting with the pope, the Colombian head of state asked to hold the seventh round of the peace dialogue in the Vatican, which has not yet been confirmed by the parties.

“We have talked about peace in Colombia as we had said, seeking a much more active position of both the Vatican state and the Catholic Church in the peace process in Colombia. It is possible that we will do a round of talks with the ELN here, as we can go much deeper with a scenario like this,” explained the president at the conclusion of their meeting in Rome.

By involving the Vatican, which has at various times shown its support for peace efforts in Colombia, Petro is trying to consolidate dialogues that have more support abroad than among Colombian society, traditionally pessimistic about agreements with illegal armed groups.

Colombia peace talks
Gustavo Petro and the Pope during their meeting at the Vatican. Credit: Colombian Presidency / CC BY-SA 4.0

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