The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) insurgent group on Tuesday announced the restart of peace negotiations, after a three-year hiatus.
The announcement was made at a joint press conference of top ELN leadership and a team of negotiators representing the Colombian government in Caracas, Venezuela.
Venezuela is one of the guarantor countries 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 restarting peace negotiations a priority in his government since taking office in August.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the announcement, according to a statement by spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, and thanked Venezuela alongside Cuba and Norway for facilitating the process.
“(Guterres) urges both parties to fully seize this opportunity to bring an end to a deadly conflict that has lasted for decades, and whose resolution is critical for expanding the scope of peace in the country. He notes positively the agreement of the parties to build their talks on the foundation of progress in earlier negotiations, as well as the importance they attach to the participation of civil society in the building of peace,” Dujarric said.
“The Secretary-General is hopeful that Colombians can demonstrate once again that even the most entrenched conflicts can be resolved through dialogue,” he added.
Last month, Colombia and Venezuela reestablished diplomatic relations after more than two years, aiming in part to resume talks with guerrilla forces that control large parts of territory across the Colombian and Venezuelan border.
The ELN is one of the largest guerrilla forces still active in the region. Born as a Marxist insurgent force in the 1960s, the group finances its activities through kidnapping, extortion and involvement in the narcotics trade.
In recent years, the ELN has expanded operations in southern Venezuela, where it controls illegal mining operations.