Colombia envoy discussing UN help in verifying cease-fire

AP News
Posted: Sep 11, 2017 10:44 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Colombia said Monday he is having discussions on a request for U.N. assistance by the government and the country's last remaining major rebel group to verify commitments in their temporary cease-fire agreement scheduled to start Oct. 1.

Jean Arnault told the U.N. Security Council that further discussions this week will hopefully enable Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make recommendations to council members "in the very near future" on the request by the government and rebels from the National Liberation Army, or ELN.

The cease-fire deal was struck in Quito, Ecuador, where talks have been taking place since February. The truce is to run through Jan. 12 and can be renewed if both sides agree.

Under the agreement, the ELN rebels agree to suspend attacks on infrastructure, kidnappings and recruitment of minors. In exchange, the government has vowed to boost protection for social leaders who have recently come under attack and develop a program that would provide humanitarian aid to the rebel group, among other measures.

Arnault said he met with the heads of both delegations "who have confirmed their interest in the U.N.'s involvement."

He said members of the U.N. mission that has been monitoring a cease-fire between the government and his country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, have engaged with a technical commission on the ELN cease-fire.

Arnault underlined to the council the culmination of the cease-fire signed last November between the government and the FARC — the transformation of the rebel group into a political party whose founding congress was held in Bogota two weeks ago.

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In July, the Security Council authorized a new follow-up U.N. political mission to focus on reintegrating FARC rebels into society after more than 50 years of war.

Arnault outlined steps the U.N. mission has taken to start the new U.N. verification mission on time on Sept. 17, when the mandate of the current mission monitoring the cease-fire and disarmament process ends.

Arnault said in July when the new mission was approved that the most urgent challenge is to reintegrate the 10,000 former FARC combatants into society, a process that he said will be difficult. He said the FARC rebels have "a deep sense of uncertainty" about their physical security following their disarmament and their economic future.