Security Council hails progress in Colombian peace process with FARC, voices concern over ELN

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-11 10:53:16|Editor: Zhou Xin
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UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Security Council on Wednesday welcomed the progress in the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and voiced dismay over peace prospects with regard to the smaller leftist rebel group of the National Liberation Army (ELN).

In a press statement, the Security Council was upbeat about the peace process with FARC.

"The members of the Security Council welcomed the leadership and continued commitment of the parties and the positive developments over the past three months, including the transformation of FARC from an armed group into a political party, and urged continued momentum toward full implementation of the peace agreement, including the full political, legal and socioeconomic reincorporation of FARC (combatants)," said the statement.

The council members echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' concern about increased insecurity in some of the areas affected by the conflict with FARC, welcomed the important efforts by the Colombian government to address these concerns, as well as steps to address other issues including access to land, and looked forward to their swift implementation, it said.

The Security Council, however, remained concerned about the peace prospects with regard to the ELN.

A temporary cease-fire between the Colombian government and the ELN expired on Tuesday. The two delegations are in new talks in Quito, Ecuador, for a way forward.

The council regretted Wednesday's renewed attacks by the ELN on oil pipelines and expressed the hope that the government and the rebel group would resume work to agree on a renewal and strengthening of the temporary cease-fire, in order to prevent a return to conflict and protect the humanitarian gains achieved over the past three months.

Jean Arnault, head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, said Wednesday that the prospects of peace with the ELN remains uncertain as a temporary cease-fire has expired and the ELN leadership has not shown enough political will.

"The ELN has voiced very strong reservations on the implementation of the temporary cease-fire and the humanitarian commitments attached to it. And while the ELN leadership has proposed the negotiation of a stronger cease-fire, they have remained silent on their posture after the end of the temporary cease-fire yesterday," Arnault told the Security Council.

Barely 24 hours have elapsed since the government and ELN delegations have resumed their talks in Quito. It is therefore still too early to predict the outcome, both at the ground level, or at the negotiating table, said Arnault, who was briefing the Security Council on the mission's work in the first 90 days.

The UN Verification Mission in Colombia, mandated by the Security Council, began operations on Sept. 26, 2017. The mission, which succeeds a UN mission of unarmed observers to monitor and verify a cease-fire between the Colombian government and FARC, is tasked to verify the reintegration of FARC fighters and also to observe the temporary cease-fire with the ELN.

Arnault was cautiously optimistic about the developments with regard to FARC, noting that both the Colombian government and the FARC leadership remain committed to carrying forward the peace process despite the many difficulties in the past few months.

"Much is still needed to keep the process on track and make it stronger. But with this political will, the appropriate resources and a sustained effort, much can be accomplished," he told the Security Council.

Arnault was heartened by the long-term deployment of security forces in about 600 of the more vulnerable rural districts in the areas most affected by the conflict, including the districts where community leaders, human rights defenders, promoters of coca substitution and land restitution advocates have been assassinated.

"It is difficult to overestimate the importance of that decision in our view. Control of territory by the state is inseparable from (a) permanent physical presence of state institutions in those areas. An occasional presence is bound to leave the old or new illegal power structure intact," he said.

One of the specific objectives of the deployment is to pave the way for more proactive social and economic support by civilian state institutions, he stressed.

The disposal of FARC arms caches has resumed under the responsibility of the military and with the cooperation of former FARC combatants, he reported.

The Colombian government and FARC struck a peace deal in August 2016 after four years of negotiations in Havana, Cuba, ending a five-decade-long conflict in the South American country.

UN chief Guterres will travel to Colombia on Saturday for an official visit to the country to support peace efforts, Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Wednesday.

Guterres will meet with President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon and officials of the government and armed forces, as well as with the leadership of FARC and the Catholic Church.