COLOMBIA PRESIDENT DEMANDS ELN REBELS RELEASE HOSTAGES

12 Jul 2013 11:19

BOGOTA, July 4 (BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA) -- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday his government would not start peace talks with rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN) until they release all hostages.

"We will not sit and talk with the ELN until all hostages are released and the crime of kidnapping is not repeated," Santos said on Twitter.

Santos has demanded the release of Canadian citizen Jernoc Wobert before talks can start and relatives of 20 other families held by the ELN have asked the

president to include them in the condition.

The president made the statement two days after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)'s top leader announced he would meet ELN leaders and requested the Colombian government to include this group in the talks.

The ELN guerrilla said one month ago it would only release the Canadian geologist, kidnapped in January in northern Colombia, if the government returned land titles owned by four mining communities.

However, Santos said from Switzerland Wednesday morning that, if a peace process with the ELN took place, it would be separate to the process running in Havana to end the conflict with the FARC.

Talks between FARC and the Colombian government have been continuing since November 2012, with the latest round of talks resuming in the Cuban capital on Monday.

Both FARC, the biggest insurgent group, and the ELN have been fighting the government for five decades.

--BERNAMA-NNN-XINHUA

SS RT