Colombia government, National Liberation Army rebels agree ceasefire

The Colombian government and rebels with the National Liberation Army (ELN) have agreed a ceasefire that will begin on October 1 and run through mid-January 2018.
Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos made the announcement in a televised address on Monday, after the latest round of peace talks that have been going on in neighboring Ecuador since February to end decades of war.
"It will come into effect on October 1, initially for 102 days, that is to say until January 12 of next year," Santos said, adding that the ceasefire would be extended as long as the deal was respected and progress continued to be made in the ongoing negotiations.
"The priority is to protect citizens; so during this period, kidnappings, attacks on oil pipelines and other hostilities against the civilian population will cease," he noted.
The ELN rebel group also confirmed the reports on the ceasefire deal. This is the first ceasefire declared by the rebels.

This file photo shows members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) of Colombia in a rural road in Sarare, Colombia. (Photo by AFP)
Both sides discussed the possibility of agreeing to a temporary ceasefire before the arrival of Pope Francis, who will begin a four-day visit to Colombia on Wednesday.
"We have said that the visit of Pope Francis should be an extra motivator to accelerate our work for an accord," the ELN said in a statement on its website, adding, "Once the days of celebration of the presence of Francis have passed, we will continue to insist on advancing toward the de-escalation of the conflict, until complete peace is a reality."
The pontiff is to visit the cities of Bogota, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena.
The ELN is Colombia’s second largest rebel group with 1,500 members. It began its peace talks with the government in February after the biggest rebel group in the country, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), laid down its arms under UN supervision following a peace deal with President Santos.
FARC, which has become a political party, signed the peace deal last November, ending half a century of deadly conflict with government forces. The conflict left 260,000 people dead, more than 60,000 missing and seven million displaced.