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The Colombian government and the country’s largest remaining guerrilla group are planning to restart peace talks, four years after the initial negotiations were suspended amid disagreements between the two parties, the Associated Press reported.
After meeting in Venezuela’s capital this week, delegates of the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) said a start date for peace talks would be announced next month.
Norway, Venezuela and Cuba would be “guarantor states” in the negotiations, they added, saying the participation of civil society groups would be “essential” for the talks to succeed.
The announcement comes shortly after the election of President Gustavo Petro, a former rebel leader and Colombia’s first left-wing president. Petro had promised to make peace deals with the ELN and other armed groups in the Latin American nation.
The new president has been trying to shift away from the strategy of the previous conservative government, which suspended talks with the ELN after the group refused to stop attacking military targets.
The ELN became Colombia’s largest remaining armed group following a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Colombia’s Peace Commissioner Danilo Rueda said that ELN had shown willingness to change.
The details of any future deal are unclear but ELN commander Antonio Garcia said the group was looking for political and economic changes.
Founded in the 1960s, the ELN is believed to have around 4,000 fighters and is also found in neighboring Venezuela where it runs illegal gold mines and drug trafficking routes. The group is known for kidnap-for-ransom schemes and attacks on oil infrastructure.
The US and the European Union have listed it as a terrorist organization.