April 18, 2018 / 7:38 PM / 5 months ago

Ecuador to halt ELN peace talk support as long as rebels keep up attacks

QUITO, April 18 (Reuters) - Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno said on Wednesday his country will suspend its role as a guarantor country at peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels as long as the guerrillas continue attacks.

The sometimes-fraught, 14-month-old talks between Colombia and the ELN, founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, were re-started in Quito last month after a six week pause marked by deaths on both sides. The two sides’ first-ever ceasefire ended in January.

“I have asked the foreign minister of Ecuador to put the brakes on the conversations and put the brakes on our role as a guarantor of the peace process while the ELN does not commit to ending terrorist actions,” Moreno told Colombian channel NTN24 in an interview.

Moreno did not specify which terrorist actions he was referring to, but the ELN have continued kidnappings and pipeline bombings during the talks.

Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Norway and Venezeula are also guarantor countries. The negotiations may have to be moved from Quito because of Ecuador’s decision.

Colombia’s government said it so far had no comment.

An ELN representative told Reuters the group would meet with the Colombian and Ecuadorean governments and the other guarantors to look for a solution.

“They want to use us as scapegoats for what others are doing,” the representative said.

Violence by Colombian armed groups has caused headaches in Ecuador in recent weeks. Two journalists and their driver were killed after being kidnapped by a group of former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who refused to demobilize under a 2016 peace deal with the government.

A civilian couple is currently being held by the group. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio)

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