The National Liberation Army rebels confirm talks with FARC guerrillas in Colombia
Colombia’s two guerrilla groups have met to coordinate concurrent peace dialogues.

The National Liberation Army, or ELN guerrillas, confirmed Monday that it held meetings with Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, FARC, with the aim of commencing concurrent peace dialogues with the Colombian government.

"With our sister organization the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), we have had some important meetings in which we agreed to look for a confluence of the two peace dialogues, all the while recognizing that there are different aims, different emphases, and particular focuses,” declared the ELN by way of a document released on its website.

In recent weeks there has been a great deal of debate around the possibility of peace dialogues with the ELN, since President Juan Manuel Santos said that he had asked the negotiating team and others involved to maintain absolute silence on the subject. The president announced the advent of exploratory talks in the week leading up to the second round of presidential elections in June.

The communiqué released by ELN’s central command said that "in spite of the pressures that exist against the peace dialogues between the Santos government and the insurgency, the group remains interested in maintaining these exploratory talks confidential in order to agree upon a negotiated agenda for the talks to then be able to begin a public dialogue.”

The ELN has made statements in the past about wishing to join the peace dialogues in Havana that have been on-going since November 2012, but nothing had been confirmed until now. Government estimates put the ELN’s number below 2,000 combatants and while this may be low, the rebel group is strategically positioned in areas rich in minerals and oil and is known to make the bulk of their income from the extortion of mining outfits.

With the aim of bringing a conflict to an end which has since 1964, according to Human Rights Watch, killed 220,000 people and displaced more than 5 million, the ELN has expressed a desire to "push ahead with two processes with one objective.”

"On many occasions the FARC and we the ELN have expressed the need to agree to a bilateral cease-fire with the government to slow down the conflict,” said the ELN.

Santos said Sunday that any dialogues with the ELN are in the initial phase. "With the ELN we are in an exploratory phase; let us explore,” he said to El Tiempo newspaper.

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Last Modified: 2014-10-22 09:14:20
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