Photo: ELN guerrillas
The Colombian government and the country’s second-largest guerrilla group, the ELN, disclosed Tuesday that they have been holding exploratory talks with an eye toward opening peace negotiations.
The exploratory talks were begun in January “after a series of contacts and meetings that had been taking place since the 2013,” according to a joint communique released by the office of President Juan Manuel Santos.
“The aim of this exploratory phase is to agree on an agenda and the framework for the process that may (bring about) the end of the conflict and the building of a stable and lasting peace for Colombia,” said the communique.
Santos, a conservative, launched a peace process with the much-larger FARC insurgency in November 2012.
“The delegations periodically and by common agreement will announce the advances and results of this exploratory phase,” the government and the ELN said Tuesday.
The delegations did not provide details about where the exploratory talks have been held or the site of the formal peace dialogue, but they expressed thanks for “the goodwill and commitment” of the governments of Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Norway and Venezuela.
The announcement of talks with the ELN comes less than a week before the presidential runoff pitting Santos against rightist Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who has been critical of the negotiations with the FARC.