UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday authorizing the U.N. mission in Colombia to monitor and verify the temporary cease-fire between the government and the country's last remaining rebel group, the National Liberation Army, known as the ELN.
The resolution approved recommendations by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to add up to 70 additional international observers to the U.N. mission to carry out the monitoring for the temporary period of the cease-fire ending Jan. 9, 2018.
The Security Council welcomed the Sept. 4 announcement of the cease-fire and the request by both parties to the United Nations to coordinate and take part in monitoring and verifying the halt to hostilities.
"For the first time in over half a century, the guns between these two once warring sides have fallen silent, which creates yet another historic opportunity for the people of Colombia," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said after the vote.
"It is vital that they seize the opportunity that this cease-fire presents," he said. "We may not see another opportunity like this for both sides to work toward a lasting peace. So let us do all we can to support the government of Colombia and the ELN in that effort."
In January 2016, the Colombian government and the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, jointly asked the United Nations to monitor any cease-fire and disarmament process — a rare request to the U.N. for help.
The Security Council authorized a mission in September 2016 to oversee the laying down of arms by FARC guerrillas and other aspects of the agreement which was formally signed two months later. The culmination of that agreement was the FARC's disarmament and its recent transformation into a political party.
The council responded by unanimously adopting a resolution last month approving U.N. plans for a follow-on mission in Colombia which will focus on reintegrating some 10,000 former FARC combatants into society.