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Colombian president to resume peace talks with ELN rebels

Bogota, Mar 12 (EFE).- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday that he will resume peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which were suspended Jan. 29 after a wave of attacks by the guerrillas.

“Thinking of life, of saving lives, of achieving complete peace for Colombia. I have decided to renew peace dialogues with the ELN,” Santos said in a statement from the presidential palace.

The ELN’s action in observing a truce for Sunday’s nationwide legislative elections was the determining factor in his decision, the president said.

“There are too many deaths on both sides,” Santos said, referring to a surge in violence following the end of a bilateral cease-fire.

“And only through talking can we substitute the force of argument for the argument of force,” he said, insisting that the alternative would be “many more years or decades” of fighting.

The ELN said earlier that they would heed “the call of President Santos to re-initiate discussions.”

The renewed talks will begin with efforts to secure a “broad and verifiable” cease-fire to ensure that nobody else will die while the parties are negotiating, the president said.

“Dialogue is not synonymous with weakness. Entirely the opposite, it is an act of responsibility, of courage,” Santos said. “It is a commitment to the present, but above all, to the future of Colombians.”

Conversations between the government and the ELN are expected to resume sometime this week in Quito, which is hosting the process.

Santos won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize after signing an accord that put an end to more than 50 years of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose fighters demobilized and handed over their weapons to the United Nations.

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