Colombia’s government and the country’s last recognised guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army [ELN], have agreed to begin negotiating a ceasefire, as the two sides wrapped up a second round of peace talks in Mexico.
Both delegations in Mexico City on Friday also agreed on a temporary ceasefire for a better peace process.
The goal is to reach a ceasefire pact based on international humanitarian law, according to an agreement read by a government delegate in the presence of both parties.
“We took the first steps to firm up a bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire which will create better conditions for Colombians’ mobilisation and participation in the peace process,” said the ELN’s Pablo Beltran.
Colombia has suffered more than half a century of armed conflict between the state and various groups of left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers.
Peace or surrender deals
The Colombian government resumed peace talks with the ELN after Gustavo Petro became the South American country’s first ever left-wing president in August.
Petro has vowed to negotiate peace or surrender deals with remaining rebels and crime gangs and to fully implement a previous accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC] signed in 2016.
The talks had been suspended by his conservative predecessor Ivan Duque following a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota that left 22 people dead.
The next round of talks is due to be held in Cuba, though a date has not yet been announced.
On New Year’s Eve, Petro announced a ceasefire, but days later the ELN said it had not agreed to the measure.
Previous negotiations with the ELN faltered on the group’s diffuse chain of command and dissent within its ranks, though leaders have said fighters are on board with current talks.
The ELN, founded in 1964 by radical Catholic priests, has some 2,500 combatants and is accused of financing itself through drug trafficking, illegal mining and kidnapping.
Colombia’s conflict, which has run for nearly six decades, has killed at least 450,000 people.