A week after the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombian government wrapped up the first round of peace discussions, Colombia's largest remaining rebel organization proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire during the holiday season, Al Jazeera reported.

In a video posted to social media on Monday, Dec. 19, an ELN representative stated that the ceasefire would last from 6 a.m. (11:00 GMT) on Saturday, Dec. 24, which is Christmas Eve, to the same time on Jan. 2, said reports.

The spokesperson stated that the ceasefire only applies to "military forces and the state police" and that ELN militants reserve the right to defend themselves in the event of an attack.

The announcement was welcomed by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, the United Nations special representative to Colombia, who said on Twitter that he trusts the ceasefire will help “alleviate suffering and improve the humanitarian situation”.

In an effort to put an end to a long-running conflict that has claimed more than 450,000 lives, representatives of the leftist rebel group and the government started peace negotiations in neighboring Venezuela last month.

In recent years, Colombia has seen an extreme upsurge in violence, especially in the areas where armed groups continuously fight for control over drug trafficking routes and other illegal activities.

Speaking with armed organizations was part of Gustavo Petro's "total peace" strategy for Colombia, which he promised to pursue after becoming the country's first left-wing president and taking office in August.

After a car bombing in 2019 that left 22 police cadets dead, Petro's right-wing predecessor, Ivan Duque, ended talks with the ELN, a group that is said to have some 4,000 fighters in Colombia and neighboring Venezuela.

Although the first round of negotiations between Bogota and the ELN did not result in a formal ceasefire, the two sides committed on Dec. 12, to "implement a partial agreement for emergency care" to start in January in several of the areas most hit by violence.

Since the resumption of the peace talks, the ELN has had a "noticeable drop in operations," according to Defence Minister Ivan Velasquez.

Colombia Peace Talks ELN Rep. Pic
Representation image. Flavia Carpio/Unsplash.

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