Colombia, ELN rebels agree ceasefire ahead of Pope’s visit

Updated: 12:01 GMT, Sep 5, 2017 | Published: 11:59 GMT, Sep 5, 2017 |
pope-francis to Colombia

Colombia and the Marxist ELN rebel group said on Monday (September 4) they have agreed a bilateral ceasefire that will run through mid-January 2018, just two days before Pope Francis arrives for a visit to the Andean country.

The National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group which regularly bombs oil installations and kidnaps for ransom, was founded by radical Catholic priests in 1964 and currently is in peace talks with the government to end 53 years of war.

The ceasefire will begin October 1 and finish January 12, with the possibility for extensions if it is respected, President Juan Manuel Santos said in a televised speech. “The priority is to protect citizens, so during this period, kidnappings, attacks on oil pipelines and other hostilities against the civilian population will cease,” he added.

The two sides have long said the pope’s visit would be a good opportunity to call a ceasefire. The government said details and verification methods were still being finalized and that was why the ceasefire did not begin immediately.

Pope Francis arrives on Wednesday (September 6) evening for a five-day visit to the cities of Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.

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