The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group on Tuesday announced a six-month extension to a ceasefire in effect since August, with the ELN agreeing to suspend kidnappings for ransom.

The two sides had started a sixth round of peace talks in Cuba last month, seeking to agree an extension of a ceasefire that expired at the end of January.

"We have agreed to extend as of 00:00 hours on February 6, 2024, for one hundred and eighty (180) days, the Bilateral, National and Temporary Ceasefire (CFBNT)," read a joint statement posted by the ELN delegation on X, formerly Twitter.

"The (ELN), in order to contribute to the development of the bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire, is unilaterally and temporarily suspending economic kidnappings", the statement, signed by both sides, added.

The ceasefire, which expired on January 29, had been extended by seven days last week to give negotiators more time.

Colombia's Minister of Defense, Ivan Velasquez, had travelled to Havana just over a week ago to take part in the negotiations.

The closing ceremony is scheduled to take place in the Cuban capital on Tuesday morning.

The rebel group had jeopardized the peace process, which began in 2022, when it kidnapped the father of Colombian footballer Luis Diaz last October, releasing him 12 days later.

Talks with the ELN resumed in November 2022 after the election of Colombia's first-ever leftist president, Gustavo Petro.

The ELN pledged during the previous round of peace negotiations in December to suspend kidnappings as part of the last ceasefire extension.

Petro's administration has held talks with Colombia's main armed groups, including the ELN, dissidents of the Marxist Farc group -- who reject a historic 2016 peace agreement -- paramilitary groups and drug traffickers.

Petro took office with the stated goal of achieving "total peace" in a country ravaged by decades of fighting between the security forces, leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.

But he has faced many obstacles and has been severely criticized by the opposition, while some armed groups have sought to increase their territorial influence.

Several rounds of negotiations with the ELN have been held in Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba, which act as guarantors along with the governments of Brazil, Chile and Norway.

The group, which is estimated to have around 5,800 fighters, has been fighting the Colombian state since it was founded in 1964 in the wake of the Cuban revolution.