Pope Francis Colombia govt, rebel ELN eye ceasefire before Pontiff's visit

The Colombian government and the country's last active rebel force, the ELN, said they hope to agree on a ceasefire before Pope Francis's visit next week.

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Colombia's government chief negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo (R) shakes hands with Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno (C) as the National Liberation Army rebel group's chief negotiator, Pablo Beltran, looks on in Quito on August 28, 2017 play

Colombia's government chief negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo (R) shakes hands with Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno (C) as the National Liberation Army rebel group's chief negotiator, Pablo Beltran, looks on in Quito on August 28, 2017

(AFP)
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The Colombian government and the country's last active rebel force, the ELN, said Monday they hope to agree on a ceasefire before Pope Francis's visit to the nation next week.

"We are determined to rise to the occasion of the Holy Father's visit and take a big step towards peace by sounding out the possibility of agreeing a temporary bilateral ceasefire," said Juan Camilo Restrepo, the government's chief negotiator at peace talks.

He spoke during an appearance by delegates from both sides in the Ecuadoran capital Quito, where they are holding peace negotiations.

National Liberation Army (ELN) negotiator Pablo Beltran added that he hoped the ceasefire would be secured Friday.

Pope Francis visits Colombia from September 6 to 10.

Colombia's biggest rebel force, the FARC, disarmed last month under a peace deal with the government to end more than half a century of civil conflict.

President Juan Manuel Santos now wants a deal with the ELN to seal a "complete peace."

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