BOGOTA, Colombia – Colombia’s second-biggest guerrilla group, the ELN, insisted on Friday, October 28, it was playing by the rules in keeping hold of a hostage until peace talks are launched with the government.
The Colombian government on Thursday postponed the official start of talks, complaining that the National Liberation Army (ELN) had not released former congressman Odin Sanchez.
The ELN responded on Friday that it had agreed to release Sanchez as a condition for talks but insisted it had not promised to do so before the dialogue is launched.
“This gentleman will be released during the course of the first round of talks in Quito. That is what we committed to do,” ELN negotiator Pablo Beltran said on Colombian radio station Blu.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday he remained committed to making peace but would not budge from his demand for the ELN to first release Sanchez “safe and sound.”
The ELN is the country’s second-largest rebel group after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has been in talks with the government for nearly four years.
The ELN talks were meant to open a new, decisive front in Santos’s efforts to end an armed conflict that has lasted more than half a century and killed more than 260,000 people.
Santos, who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, has already signed a peace deal with the FARC, but voters rejected it in a referendum this month — sending negotiators back to the drawing board. – Rappler.com
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