February 26, 2018 / 12:39 PM / a year ago

Colombia's ELN rebels to hold ceasefire during legislative elections

FILE PHOTO: A rebel from Colombia's Marxist National Liberation Army (ELN) shows his weapon in the northwestern jungles, Colombia August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Federico Rios

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s ELN rebels will hold a four-day unilateral ceasefire as the country votes in legislative elections next month, the group said in a statement on Monday.

The government suspended peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) in January, after the end of the two sides’ first-ever bilateral ceasefire, when the guerrillas restarted attacks on security forces and pipelines.

“As a gesture of respect for Colombians who are voting, the National Liberation Army will halt offensive military operations between 9 and 13 March,” the statement, posted on the group’s website, said.

Legislative elections take place on Mar. 11, ahead of presidential voting in May.

The rebels urged President Juan Manuel Santos to set a date to restart talks, adding that the next cycle of negotiations should be focused on agreeing on a new bilateral ceasefire.

Santos has repeatedly said that talks will not begin again until the ELN’s actions match its words. Eight police officers were killed and more than 40 people wounded in the latest wave of guerrilla attacks.

“This statement, if they back it up with action, is exactly the type of gesture we’re looking for to restart talks,” Santos said in an interview on Monday with local La FM radio. “I’m going to study the statement, verify its authenticity and then we’ll take decisions.”

The Cano Limon pipeline has been halted for more than six weeks because of bombings attributed to the 2,000-strong ELN, which was founded by radical Roman Catholic priests in 1964.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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