HAVANA – The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla resumed on Thursday in Havana their fifth round of peace talks, after Ecuador suspended its role as host and guarantor country of the negotiations nearly a month ago.
The ELN and the Colombian government announced in the capital of Cuba, a country that also hosted the peace talks between Bogota and the now-disbanded FARC rebels, that they would seek to reach a new bilateral cease-fire and include the participation of civil society in the peace process.
The head of the government’s negotiating team, Gustavo Bell, said he felt “reasonably optimistic” about achieving “concrete and favorable results in the medium term,” while the head of the ELN delegation, Pablo Beltran, said “no adversity” would prompt the guerrilla group to walk away from the talks.
Both Bell and Beltran thanked Cuba for hosting this round of negotiations and for its commitment to peace in Colombia and Latin America.
Bell said he was confident of reaching a “more robust” cease-fire ahead of the Colombian presidential elections that will take place on May 27.
Beltran said “Colombia’s only path is peace,” although he acknowledged the “great difficulties” the FARC has faced in its demobilization process.
The FARC, which signed a peace accord with the Colombian government in 2016 and has since become a political party, “put all its eggs in one basket that could be about to fall and break,” Beltran warned.
The head of the Cuban team of guarantors, diplomat Ivan Mora, said his country responded “with the promptness that was merited” when asked to host the talks.
The launch of the fifth round of peace talks was also attended by representatives of the other guarantor countries – Brazil, Chile, Norway and Venezuela – who reiterated, along with Cuba, their commitment to continue supporting the negotiations, Mora said.