QUITO – The Colombian government delegation to the dialogue with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas announced Wednesday that the talks to set a date for the launching of the actual peace negotiations will resume in January.
In a statement datelined Quito, which will be the site of the first session of the talks, Bogota’s representatives also said that they are hoping that in the meantime “the release of Mr. Odin Sanchez ... will occur as quickly as possible,” referring to the former congressman kidnapped and being held by the ELN.
The government and the ELN had agreed to begin their peace talks on Oct. 27 in Quito, but Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos postponed his negotiating team’s trip to Ecuador because the guerrillas had not yet released Sanchez.
On Nov. 7, the ELN’s top commander, Nicolas Rodriguez Bautista, alias “Gabino,” linked the ex-lawmaker’s release to the Colombian government’s pardoning of two captured rebels.
The Colombian government delegation, however, said in its statement on Wednesday that such pardons “must strictly comply with the ... prevailing law.”
The delegation also said that it would “continue encouraging” the dialogue process, adding that the government had accepted “an ELN request to hold internal consultations” which are expected to get under way in the coming weeks.
The government, meanwhile, thanked the Ecuadorian government and the other countries guaranteeing the peace process – Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Norway and Venezuela – for their “ongoing ... support” in getting the public talks under way as quickly as possible.