CARACAS: The Colombian government and the country’s second-largest rebel group, the ELN, announced Monday they would launch negotiations on October 27 in Ecuador’s capital, with President Juan Manuel Santos predicting “total peace”.
Both sides have committed to doing everything in their power to “create an environment favorable to peace” once the talks begin, according to a joint statement delivered at the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in Caracas.
The move comes as welcome news for Santos, fresh from his Nobel Peace Prize win but still reeling from voters’ rejection in a referendum of a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest rebel group.
“We’ve been seeking negotiations with the ELN for almost three years to end the armed conflict with them as well… Now that we’re moving forward with the ELN, we will have total peace,” Santos said in Bogota.
The ELN freed a third hostage in two weeks ahead of what the rebels had billed as an “important announcement” on potential peace talks with the government. In the text presented in Caracas, the ELN vowed to “initiate the process to free hostages before October 27”.
Colombia and the ELN agreed in March to launch peace talks, in parallel with the government’s negotiations with the FARC.
Santos is working to end half a century of conflict in Colombia that has killed more than 260,000 people, left 45,000 missing and uprooted nearly seven million.