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article imageColombian ELN rebels announce Christmas ceasefire

By AFP     Dec 17, 2018 in World

Colombia's ELN Marxist guerrilla group announced Monday a Christmas ceasefire as peace talks with the country's government have been on hold since August.

Such moves by the ELN are common this time of year and the group said it was granting a unilateral truce "at the request of the communities in the territory that suffer from the rigors of war."

The ELN also reiterated its desire to kick start peace talks that have been suspended since right-wing President Ivan Duque assumed power in early August.

"The National Liberation Army will cease its offensive operations from December 23 to January 3, 2019, to contribute to a peaceful climate over Christmas and the New Year," the group said in a statement.

Duque's predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, had failed in his bid to clinch a peace deal with the ELN similar to the one that ended a 50-year insurgency by FARC Marxist rebels in 2016, turning that armed outfit into a political party.

Duque has vowed only to start peace talks with the ELN once the rebels release all hostages they are holding, believed by the government to be 10 people, and put an end to "criminal activities."

In a response to the ELN announcement, Duque reiterated his stance and said it was "the only way that there can be confidence in a genuine peace gesture."

The ELN, which is considered the last active rebel group in Colombia and numbers around 1,800 fighters, has rejected those demands as "unacceptable."

Colombia has been beset for more than half a century by a multifaceted armed conflict mostly carried out in lawless jungle regions and involving Marxist guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers, as well as government forces.

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