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Ecuador’s Foreign Minister indicated Wednesday that his country could well be the setting for potential peace talks between the Colombian government and the Andean nation’s second biggest rebel group, the ELN.

“President Santos has been proposing for some time now the possibility of Ecuador accompanying Colombia in the peace talks,” Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño told Colombian radio station Blu Radio, following a meeting on Wednesday between the Ecuadorian and Colombian heads of state. “We have already confirmed our willingness.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa reportedly met this week during the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Havana, Cuba, though, if the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister’s comments can be believed, some form of dialogue had been initiated well before the summit.

Whereas Blu Radio has reported that government peace talks with the ELN are “just about to be officially announced,” the office of Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace expressly denied any official advances.

A spokesman from the President’s Office told Colombia Reports that, for the moment, nothing has been confirmed regarding the possibility new peace talks and that the sources for Blu Radio’s claims are coming from the state of Ecuador, not Colombia, which is currently concentrating all its efforts on the ongoing talks with the country’s oldest rebel group, the FARC, being held in Havana.

The Foreign Minister also used the opportunity to confirm that Ecuador has been demanding explanations from the United States regarding its alleged participation in the 2008 bombing of a FARC camp on the Ecuadorian side of the Colombian border.

The incident, in which Raul Reyes, alias “Luis Edgar Devia Silva,” was killed along with 19 other militants, sparked an international political confrontation between Ecuador and Colombia, which launched the attack. Tensions have since dissipated, but an article published by The Washington Post in December established that the United States played a direct role in the attack, a revelation not previously disclosed to the public.

MORE: Uribe investigated for Colombia’s 2008 bombing in Ecuador

The ELN has been battling tirelessly in recent months to pressure the Colombian government to open a similar peace process as that made available to the FARC starting in late 2012.

MORE: ELN supports political participation deal with FARC

MORE: Peace team is ‘formed and ready,’ waiting for Colombia govt: ELN

The government indicated a willingness to negotiate during a hostage “trade-off” that took place in August of 2013, during which the ELN released a Canadian hostage in exchange for the start of a formal peace process.

MORE: ELN releases Canadian hostage kidnapped in northern Colombia

Since then, however, the Colombian government has yet to acknowledge any progress in developing potential talks with the ELN or signaled a willingness to engage the rebels diplomatically.


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