BOGOTA – Former Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo said on Monday that he asked Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to replace him as head of the government’s negotiating team in its peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN).
He broke the news in an interview on Caracol Radio, in which he said that he asked the head of state to “free me from these responsibilities as head of the negotiating team for both professional and personal reasons.”
“I consider that on the personal side, my time as head of the team negotiating with the ELN is coming to a close,” Restrepo said, adding that the change should take place “in the first few days of next year.”
In explaining his decision, Restrepo said he is a member of an arbitration court based in Paris, and that together with his other professional commitments, he will need more time in Bogota starting next March.
He also said he hopes his successor, to be assigned by Santos, will lead the next round of talks, scheduled to begin on Jan. 9, 2018, in Quito, scene of the dialogue.
Restrepo said the fourth round of negotiations, which kicked off last Oct. 23 and ended last week, has produced some very positive results, particularly the bilateral cease-fire and the suspension of hostilities, the first accord with the ELN in the 52 years of that guerrilla group’s history.
The cease-fire was enacted on Oct. 1, 2017, and will continue until Jan. 9, 2018, the day when the next round of negotiations will begin.
In Quito last week when Restrepo weighed the results of the process, he noted that parallel to the cease-fire, “humanitarian measures” are being applied throughout that peaceful period for the purpose of “de-escalating the conflict.”
Restrepo said that ELN delegates at the negotiating table will be holding internal discussions during this period to determine “their position about continuing or not the cease-fire.”