Colombia president suspends ceasefire talks over rebel attacks

Reuters , Wednesday 10 Jan 2018

File Photo: Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos speaks during a meeting in Cartagena, Colombia January 4, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that he had suspended peace talks with National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels in response to what he said were guerrilla attacks earlier Wednesday.

"I have talked with the head of the government delegation in Quito to tell him to return immediately to assess the future of the process," Santos said in a televised address.

Peace talks with Colombia's last rebel group were to resume in Quito, the capital of neighboring Ecuador, on Wednesday after a 101-day ceasefire between the government and the ELN rebels expired at midnight.

Santos said the ELN had resumed "its terrorist attacks against the civilian population, the armed forces and infrastructure."

Although he gave no details, authorities reported a naval guard post had been hit in a grenade attack in the ELN stronghold of Arauca, on the border with Venezuela. Two servicemen were injured, local media reported.

State oil company Ecopetrol had earlier reported a "possible attack" on a well in the eastern department of Casanare.

"My commitment to peace has been and will be unwavering. But peace comes with a will and concrete acts of peace, not just words," said Santos.

Both sides have separately said they want the ceasefire to be extended, but an accord has remained out of reach because of mutual accusations of failure to meet commitments.

Both the ELN and the government have accused each other of breaches since the truce began on October 1.

The ELN recently acknowledged the murder of an indigenous governor, for which it has asked for forgiveness.

In turn, the rebels accused security forces of killing seven coca farmers and carrying out military operations in areas of ELN influence.

A pact with the ELN would close the last chapter of a half-century conflict in the South American nation, following a deal struck by Nobel Peace Prize-winning Santos in November 2016 with the much larger FARC insurgents.

Under its peace deal, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has disarmed, demobilized its fighters, and transformed into a political party using the same acronym.

The ELN has an estimated 2,000 fighters in its ranks.

Colombia's long internal conflict created around eight million victims, including those killed, made to disappear and displaced from their homes.

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