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Colombia’s Petro proposes ceasefire to guerillas

BOCAS DE SATINGA, COLOMBIA (AFP) – Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro urged a guerrilla group on Saturday to agree to a regional ceasefire aimed at ending decades of conflict after the two sides failed to ink a nation-wide deal this month.

“I propose that we work seriously on a ceasefire, that they stop killing each other and that we stop killing each other,” Petro said during a meeting with farmers’ organisations.

The president is pushing for peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) to put an end to more than half a century of armed conflict between the state and the guerrillas.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement on a nation-wide ceasefire during a third round of talks that began in Havana this month.

On Saturday, Petro suggested a regional ceasefire in its place.

“We can begin not with the national idea, as I proposed in December, (which is) complex, difficult, very unstable, very dangerous, but in the territorial, regional idea,” he said.

“Peace in Colombia today is, more than anything else, a territorial peace.”

The ELN called Petro’s comments “stigmatising and disrespectful”, and accused him of throwing into question the “entire architecture” of the peace talks.

The negotiations were launched at the end of last year by Petro, Colombia’s first leftist president and himself a former guerrilla.

The first meetings took place in Venezuela last November, with further talks in March.

Petro’s government hopes to reach a ceasefire agreement with the ELN before regional elections in October, government negotiator Otty Patino has said.

But an ELN ambush on a military convoy in March that left nine soldiers dead cast doubt over the future of the talks.

Colombia has attempted numerous negotiations with armed groups, many of which have failed.

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro greets followers. PHOTO: AP
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