Officials say Norway, Venezuela and Cuba will be “guarantor states” and civil society groups will be “essential”.
The Colombian government and rebel groups from the Left National Liberation Army (ELN) have announced they will resume peace talks that were suspended in 2018.
Colombian government and ELN delegations will resume negotiations after the first week of November, ELN commanders Antonio Garcia and Pablo Beltrán and the country’s high commissioner for peace Danilo Rueda signed Tuesday. the parties said in a statement.
“For the Colombian government and the ELN, the participation of society in this process is essential to the changes Colombia needs to build peace,” said a statement issued at a press conference in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, on Tuesday. according to.
The statement also added that Norway, Venezuela and Cuba would be “guarantors” for the talks, and that the participation of civil society groups would be “essential” to the success of the peace talks.
Rueda traveled to Cuba to meet with ELN representatives in Havana, days after Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first left-wing president, took office in August.
“I think this opportunity, given the new political situation in Colombia, allowed us to resume negotiations,” Garcia told journalists on Tuesday.
Asked about the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire, Rueda said the parties were still “building trust” and that everything agreed would be realized and implemented by both sides.
Previous attempts at negotiations with the ELN, which has an estimated 2,400 to 4,000 fighters and has been accused of being financed by drug trafficking, illegal mining and kidnapping, have been hampered by internal disagreements. No progress has been made as one.
Founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, representatives of the ELN remain in Cuba after earlier talks initiated under the government of former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos were canceled in 2019. I was.
Following a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the ELN has become the country’s largest remaining armed group. Since then, he has stepped up operations in areas previously under FARC control. The group is known for plotting ransom kidnappings and attacks on oil infrastructure, and is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Petro said discussions could pick up where the Santos government left off and would recognize the agreed protocol with support from sponsoring countries such as Norway and Venezuela.
Talks between the ELN and the Santos government began in 2016 in Ecuador and later moved to Cuba, but the ELN refused to end hostilities and killed 22 police cadets in a Bogotá bomb attack. Canceled by Santos’ successor Ivan Duque.
The date and location of the renegotiation have not yet been announced, but Garcia suggested that various stages of negotiations could take place in Cuba, Norway and Venezuela.
At a press conference following both meetings, Rueda said the ELN had demonstrated a change in behavior that allowed it to win the government’s trust. Rueda said rebel groups had recently released hostages and scaled back attacks against Colombian forces.
The ELN did not give details of what it would ask for in exchange for laying down its weapons. But Commander Garcia hinted that the group is seeking political and economic change.
“The way to seek peace is not just to think about weapons, but to attack the root causes of this conflict: inequality and lack of democracy,” Garcia said.