The Colombian government’s chief negotiator in peace talks with the ELN guerrilla group said Tuesday that serious challenges remain in verifying a recently agreed ceasefire.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Juan Camilo Restrepo said a long road lies ahead not only in getting the ELN and its members to adhere to the ceasefire but also in convincing communities that have suffered from the five-decade-long conflict to participate in the peace process.
Restrepo said convincing society to take part can only take place if the ELN stops its kidnappings.
“One cannot make an appeal to civilians while they are being kidnapped. By renouncing this practice, at least for a while, the road to initiating the process opens up”, he said.
The ceasefire has been signed for a four-month period, after which the government and ELN will start discussing a potential peace agreement. Colombians can expect ‘all the humanitarian agreements that accompany the ceasefire’, Restrepo said.
“This is not only a silencing of arms. They will start to notice that there are no more kidnappings by the ELN, no more pipelines blowing up, no more landmines being planted, no more recruitment of minors under 15. These are the things that will be initially seen and that people will come to cherish.”
He was concerned, however, over a recent poll showing that 66% of Colombians do not have faith in the peace process.
“It worries me, but it does not surprise me. Fifty years of bombs, of killings creates a lot of mistrust, and this skepticism can only be resolved by concrete and positive acts such as the ceasefire.”
Restrepo signed the ceasefire agreement on behalf of the Colombia‘s government. The document will go down in history as the first agreement ever reached between the state and the insurgent group.