Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

United Nations chief heading to Colombia this weekend to support peace

United Nations chief heading to Colombia this weekend to support peace

Colombia reached an historic peace agreement with the nation's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in late 2016, ending Latin America's longest-running conflict.

"Today, Tuesday at 2400 hours, the ceasefire which has lasted for 101 days will come to an end", Pablo Beltran, the commander-in-chief of the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, said from Quito, Ecuador, where the two sides have been involved in peace talks. In a separate attack near the frontier, a sniper killed a Colombian soldier.

According to a statement from the United Nations mission in Colombia, the assistance of the vice president to the special session of the Security Council reaffirms the Bogota government's will with the implementation of the Peace Agreement.

"The national government deplores the ELN's decision to resume its terrorist attacks against the civilian population, the armed forces and infrastructure", Santos said in a broadcast. The dialogues have been rocky from the get-go, and InSight Crime's research suggests that the ELN have been in expansion mode despite their calls for an end to the conflict.

Just one day earlier, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Maria Espinosa had said that the two sides had the "political will" to extend the ceasefire in their fifth round of talks. The government said that the rebels attacked the pipeline with three bombs.

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At the council meeting, the United Nations envoy for Colombia, Jean Arnault, said the clamor for a suspension of military action by the ELN has been unanimous throughout the country, "notwithstanding the many imperfections of the ceasefire", as reported by Reuters. "We are going to try and ensure that this continues, and we hope that there is no escalation in attacks".

"I would like to assure you that the government is not walking away from peace", Colombian Vice President Oscar Naranjo told the council. "We are peacemakers and peacebuilders".

He noted Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has recognized "the need for access to land ownership as a major incentive for reintegration" for FARC members.

"The next few months must be the opportunity to "turn the corner" as it were and establish what is still a fragile process on a more durable base", Arnault told the council. "But peace comes with a will and concrete acts of peace, not just words", said Santos. The secretary-general is scheduled to travel to Meta, in central Colombia, to visit a site set up to help FARC rebels reintegrate.

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