Columbia's ELN rebels deny ceasefire agreement with government

© Federico Parra, AFP

Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels on Tuesday denied the president's assertion that they had signed a ceasefire agreement with the government.

President Gustavo Petro had announced over the weekend a six-month ceasefire with the five largest armed groups in the country, including the ELN, which has held peace talks with the government.

But the guerrillas said in a statement, "the ELN Dialogue Delegation has not discussed any bilateral ceasefire with the Gustavo Petro government, therefore no such agreement exists."

Negotiations between the government and the ELN, the country's last recognized rebel group, have been under way since November.

"We have said several times that the ELN only carries out that which is discussed and agreed at the negotiating table in which we participated. A unilateral government decree cannot be accepted as an agreement," said the ELN.

A first round of peace talks since Petro came to power in August concluded in Caracas on December 12 but no ceasefire was agreed.

Another round of talks is due to take place in Mexico, although no date has yet been set.

The ELN said that despite its denials, it was "ready to discuss a bilateral ceasefire."

Last month the rebels announced a unilateral ceasefire from Christmas Eve to January 2.

The government then called on other groups to join the truce.

The government had said the truce would be monitored by the United Nations, Colombia's human rights ombudsman and the Catholic Church.


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