Colombian government, ELN start peace talks



Negotiators from the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) began peace talks on Monday, the first major step in President Gustavo Petro's efforts to "achieve total peace."

"We cannot see each other as enemies, the labor we have is of reconciliation," said ELN negotiator Pablo Beltran. "We hope not to fail these expectations for change."

The talks, which began in Venezuelan capital Caracas, will rotate among guarantor countries Venezuela, Cuba and Norway, according to the Colombian government.

"We are committed to talks with an organization that also wants peace," said head government negotiator Otty Patino. "We are going to reach safe port... a real peace."

The delegations had their first meeting on Monday, Colombia's high peace commissioner Danilo Rueda said.

The negotiations do not mean a suspension of military operations against the rebels, Colombian Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez said on Monday.

Peace talks between the Colombian government and the ELN began in 2017 but were suspended in January 2019 after the guerrilla group carried out a car bomb attack that killed over 20 people.

Petro has also promised to fully implement a 2016 peace deal with the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). More than 450,000 people have been killed in Colombia's six decades of internal conflict.