Colombia, ELN agree to resume peace talks

Colombia, ELN agree to resume peace talks

Colombia's government and the National Liberation Army ELN, one of the oldest and largest guerrilla groups still operating in the country, have agreed to execute a bilateral, six-month ceasefire starting on August 3.

The agreement came after months of private negotiations in Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela and was ratified on Friday by Colombian President Gustavo Petro, the Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel and the ELN's chief commander, known by his name Antonio Garc a. In addition, both sides said they would hold further talks in Venezuela starting in August. The United Nations and the Colombian Catholic church have played a role in the peace talks, as well as Cuba, Mexico, Norway, and Venezuela.

The Colombian government and the ELN have been engaged in peace talks since at least 2012 but the six-month ceasefire agreed on Friday is the longest agreed upon since the guerrilla group formed in 1963.

The agreement is different from the historic 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC, a guerilla group operating in the country since the 1960s and was dismantled in 2017.

The ELN is still in large areas of the Colombian countryside and operates a military force of several thousand men, according to military analysts and the Colombian military forces.

The United States and the European Union are accused of being involved in the production and trafficking of cocaine, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

The agreement comes as the Petro administration grapples with a series of scandals. Last week, Petro's chief of staff, Laura Sarabia, and Colombia's ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, both resigned amid mutual accusations of wiretapping.