Colombia decree suspends ceasefire with EMC armed group in three areas

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) -Colombia will suspend its months-long ceasefire with the Estado Mayor Central (ECM) armed group in three provinces on Wednesday, a government decree said on Sunday, citing incidents of violence that broke the ceasefire.

The EMC - founded by former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who reject the 2016 peace deal signed by that group - began talks with President Gustavo Petro's government last year, in a bid to end its part in Colombia's 60 years of war.

The announcement of the end of the ceasefire did not mention any effect on the overall negotiations.

The EMC and other rebel and armed groups often fight each other for control of illicit income streams like drug trafficking and illegal mining. Violence in many parts of Colombia has continued despite ongoing bilateral government ceasefires, such as that with the EMC.

The ceasefire with the EMC went into place last October with a January deadline, before being extended through July 15.

The decree, signed by the defense minister, called for "re-starting of military operations" as of March 20 in the provinces of Nariño, Cauca and Valle del Cauca, where it said the EMC had broken the terms of the ceasefire.

EMC members had attacked civilians, local officials and state security forces, the decree said, "showing little willingness for peace" and prompting the need for state forces to intervene.Petro has promised to end Colombia's six-decade conflict through negotiations or surrender deals with armed groups.

However, a major leader of the EMC said in a recent interview with Reuters that he thought it would be difficult to reach a peace deal before the end of Petro's term in 2026 and that it would need the support of wider Colombian civil society to be successful.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Julia Symmes Cobb, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Aurora Ellis)