Monday, September 26, 2016

ELN to Halt Offensive Action During Colombia's Peace Plebiscite
ELN Commander Beltran is the lead negotiator in the peace talks with the government of Colombia. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 September 2016

The guerrilla group says it will support the peace agreement and assure Colombians can safely vote for its approval.

Pablo Beltran, commander of Colombia's National Liberation Army said Friday that the guerrilla group will cease all offensive actions during the plebiscite to vote on the peace agreement.

Beltran said in an interview with ELN radio network Radio National Patria Libre, the country’s second-largest guerrilla group supports the peace deal between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

The agreement will be signed on Sept. 26 with the presence of regional leaders and heads of state, but will still need to be ratified by Colombians in a plebiscite set to take place on Oct. 2.

"To dispel any doubts, the commitment is that there will be no offensive action by the ELN during the plebiscite to facilitate the participation of the people,” said Beltran.

Israel Ramirez Pineda alias Pablo Beltran, is a member of the ELN Central Command and the Dialogue Delegation that began peace talks with the Colombian government on March 3, a decision that was reached in Caracas, Venezuela. Talks have since been stalled, however.

The FARC-EP has frequently stressed that a key part of building peace in Colombia is to end hostilities between the government and the ELN.

“The fact that we criticized it (the peace agreement) does not mean that we are an obstacle,” said Beltran. “For us, it’s true to say that we are on the same road but in different lanes, but we have the same direction,” said the group commander.

The rebel group announced the public phase of the talks would begin in May, and said they are willing to work together with government officials to achieve a peace agreement, but according to Beltran the government has tried to modify those agreements.

“Do not expect that the ELN will allow or agree to a renegotiation of the agreement, for that you can’t count on us,” said Beltran.

Beltran said the group hopes the next meeting with the government will help set a date to continue negotiations in Quito, Ecuador, since Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa offered to host the process and play the role that Cuba had in the negotiations with the FARC-EP since 2012.

The ELN wants the government to commit to a bilateral cease-fire before talks begin, meanwhile, the government wants the rebel group to cease some of its activities, such as detentions.

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