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Colombia and ELN meet to set up peace talks

Colombian government representatives and National Liberation Army (ELN) members are to meet Friday to plan formal peace negotiations. The move comes on the heels of the recently ratified peace accord with the FARC.

Italien Juan Manuel Santos in Rom (Reuters/T. Gentile)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

Representatives of the Colombian government and the guerilla group National Liberation Army (ELN) are planning to meet Friday in Ecuador to set a proper date to begin public, formal peace negotiations.

"We are in Ecuador. The commissions of the government and ELN are currently in preparatory work for the joint meeting," said Colombian negotiator Juan Camilo Restrepo on Twitter.

Talks were supposed to start Thursday, but according to the ELN, they were delayed for "logistical" reasons. The ELN offered a hopeful statement on Twitter. "This Friday, January 13, we will be meeting with the government delegation. We hope to give good news on the table," said the ELN tweet.

The start of formal peace talks are subject to the release of former congressman Odin Sanchez, who has been held captive by the ELN for the previous eight months. Delays for his release have occurred twice already. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, has demanded that all captives held by the ELN be released.

A government source told EFE news agency that the talks on Friday would include addressing Sanchez's release, pardoning two ELN members and designating peacekeepers of two ELN members to participate in the formal talks. 

The Colombian Civil War has lasted for more than 50 years and left many thousands dead and displaced millions.

kbd/kl (dpa, EFE)

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