The National Liberation Army and the government of Colombia have reached a ceasefire agreement ahead of Pope Francis' visit to the South American country, according to both parties.
In a press conference from the capital of Ecuador in Quito, the negotiating teams, along with the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, announced the details of the agreement, which will begin on Oct. 1 and end on Jan. 9, 2018.
"Let the spirit for reducing the intensity of the conflict begin today, let's not wait until Oct. 1," Pablo Beltran for the ELN said, alluding to the assassination of social leaders by paramilitary forces in the country.
The bilateral ceasefire, whose main objective is "to improve the humanitarian situation of the population," will be monitored by the government, the ELN, the United Nations and the Catholic church.
The ELN's commitments include stopping the enrollment of minors, as well as stopping the implanting of explosive devices or anti-personnel mines. Meanwhile, the Colombian government's commitments include the safety of social leaders and improving prison conditions in the Andean country.
"We are committed to improving the humanitarian program for the prison population in the country," Juan Camilo Restrepo, for the Colombian government, pressed.
The delegations thanked the guarantor countries Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Norway and Venezuela, and especially Ecuador, for its hospitality and agreed that the ceasefire was a major step toward a final peace deal.
Espinosa stated, "We have full confidence that we will reap more fruits from this peace process."
The fourth round of talks will begin on Oct. 23 in Quito, where negotiations have been taking place since February.
Earlier, the ELN confirmed the ceasefire on Twitter, thanking those who had helped in the process, while President Juan Manuel Santos made a televised announcement in which he said that it was with great happiness that the country awaited the visit of Pope Francis whose message of reconciliation and unity should be heeded by all Colombians.
Santos said the bilateral ceasefire "could be renewed to the extent that it is fulfilled and progress on the other points in the negotiations is made."
The agreement was reportedly reached at dawn as talks were extended between the two parties to thrash out the details of the verification process, which will be monitored by an international body, according to Caracol Radio.