Colombia's military and ELN rebels resumed hostilities on Wednesday after failing to agree to an extension of a bilateral ceasefire, in spite of pleas by victims and the worldwide community to maintain a ceasefire.
After the signing of the Peace Agreement in Colombia in November 2016, after some four years of talks in the Cuban capital, the United Nations Security Council approved a mission to verify the ceasefire and the delivery of weapons.
The recent attacks threaten to end the peace negotiations between the group and the government.
Santos said that he had recalled his chief negotiator back to the country. But he said in light of the latest attacks it is "too early to venture a sense of what the future holds in terms of the situation on the ground and at the negotiating table".
The ministry said on Twitter that the nation's military has been ordered to resume operations against rebels "with full intensity and force".
Santos said they were always willing to continue the ceasefire and added that the ELN decided not to. While the FARC peace agreement is credited with paving the way toward negotiations with the ELN, analysts say peace talks with ELN rebels also present distinct challenges.
At the council meeting, the United Nations envoy for Colombia, Jean Arnault, said the clamor for a suspension of military action by the ELN has been unanimous throughout the country, "notwithstanding the many imperfections of the cease-fire". The ceasefire did not continue as reports say the rebels want a new deal with the government.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to Colombia at the weekend as peace efforts in the South American country come under strain from fresh ELN attacks and a faltering drive to reintegrate FARC rebels. The negotiator said that they will remain in Ecuador if there is a positive response. The government in turn vowed to improve conditions for jailed rebels as well as boost protections for leftist activists in areas dominated by the ELN.
Worldwide leaders, the Catholic Church and the head of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which until recently was the nation's largest guerrilla group, are all urging government and ELN negotiators to resume talks. Before the deal, the group was the biggest in Colombia.
It's unclear exactly as to why Santos called back off Bell, but some suspect it was part of a political move in the run-up to presidential elections this year.