BOGOTA Colombia's leftist ELN rebels on Monday asked the government to agree to a bilateral ceasefire amid peace talks in honor of a September visit by Pope Francis.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, which was founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, said a ceasefire would improve negotiating conditions at peace talks with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos taking place in Ecuador.
"We propose receiving Pope Francis in September with a bilateral ceasefire, to give more strength to the process of talks," the ELN said in a statement. "It would be most appropriate to agree immediately to a ceasefire."
"President Santos, you have the floor," the group added.
The ELN said last month it does not anticipate a peace deal in time for 2018 presidential and legislative elections.
Pope Francis will visit four cities during a visit beginning Sept. 6.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by James Dalgleish)