Delegates of ELN and Colombian government and guarantor countries
Colombia Protests In Photos: Violence And Unrest Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

The Colombian government and a delegation from the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas declared on Tuesday they would restart peace talks that have been on hold since 2019 next month. The ELN is one of the largest guerrilla forces still active in the region. Born as a Marxist rebel force in the 1960s, the group funds its activities through kidnapping, extortion, and involvement in the narcotics trade. It has recently expanded operations in southern Venezuela, where it holds illegal mining operations.

ELN commander Antonio Garcia said in Caracas that the two parties would re-establish the talks after the first week of November 2022 with Venezuela, Cuba, and Norway as guarantors for the talks, CGTN reported.

Venezuela is one of the participants in the negotiation process, which was launched over six years ago but halted in 2019 by former Colombian president Ivan Duque. His successor, Gustavo Petro, has made advancing peace talks a priority in his administration since taking office in August.

Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres praised the announcement and thanked Venezuela alongside Cuba and Norway for easing the procedure. Djuric also said that the Secretary-General hoped that Colombians can prove once again that even the most entrenched conflicts can be settled through dialogue.

Also, CNN reported, Guterres urged both forces to fully seize this opportunity to obtain an end to a deadly dispute that has lasted for decades. This resolution is vital for expanding the scope of peace in the country. He also noted the agreement of the parties to build their talks on the progress they have made in earlier negotiations. In addition, they are agreeable to the significance they attach to the participation of civil society in the building of peace.

Last month, Colombia and Venezuela reestablished diplomatic ties after more than two years, seeking to resume dialogues with guerrilla forces that control huge parts of territory across the Colombian and Venezuelan border. The country’s high commissioner for peace, Danilo Rueda, traveled to Cuba to meet ELN representatives in Havana days after the August inauguration of Gustavo Petro, the first left-wing president to lead Colombia.

“We think that, with this opportunity, Colombia’s new political circumstances have allowed negotiations to restart,” Garcia told journalists Tuesday. Asked about the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire, Rueda said the parties were still “in a phase of building trust” and that whatever is agreed upon will be by both sides and will be fulfilled, as reported by Al Jazeera.

The ELN did not give any details on what it seeks in exchange for laying down its weapons. But the commander, Garcia, hinted that the group was looking for a change in politics and the economy.

The Colombian Government's Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda (C) hugs commanders of ELN
The Colombian Government's Commissioner for Peace, Danilo Rueda (C) hugs the commanders of the National Liberation Army (ELN) Aureliano Carbonel (L) and Pablo Beltran at the end of the document signing ceremony after announcing new peace talks, in Caracas, on October 4, 2022. - Colombia's government and a delegation from the National Liberation Army (ELN) leftist guerrillas announced on Tuesday they would next month restart peace talks suspended since 2019. ELN commander Antonio Garcia read out a statement in Caracas stating that the two parties would re-establish "the dialogue process after the first week of November 2022" with Venezuela, Cuba and Norway acting as guarantors for the talks. Photo by Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images

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