(CNN Spanish) –– The Government of Colombia and representatives of the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) announced this Tuesday in Caracas that they are reinstating the talks table, after a three-year break. The announcement explained that the parties will return to the agreements and progress made since the signing of the agenda on March 30, 2016 and that the dialogue process will resume after the first week of November this year.
The announcement was made during a joint press conference by the ELN top leadership and a team of negotiators representing the Colombian government in Caracas, Venezuela. This is one of the guarantor countries in the negotiation process, which began more than six years ago but was stopped in 2019 by then-president Iván Duque.
The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, shared the joint statement of the announcement on his Twitter account. “Since Caracas, the peace talks are officially resumed between our government and the ELN, together with the guarantor countries of Venezuela, Cuba and Norway,” he wrote.
From Caracas, the peace talks are officially resumed between our government and the ELN, together with the guarantor countries of Venezuela, Cuba and Norway. pic.twitter.com/FVZnyKJ8IX
– Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) October 4, 2022
“For the Government of Colombia and the ELN, the participation of society in this process is essential in the changes that Colombia needs to build peace,” the document reads.
Since Petro took office in August, restarting negotiations with the ELN has been a priority of his government.
ELN delegation leaves Cuba
This Monday, the ELN announced in a statement that its delegation had left Cuba on Sunday. The members of this illegal armed group, who had been on the island since 2018 for the peace negotiations with the government of then-president Juan Manuel Santos, thanked the guarantor countries for their efforts in this process.
“Today, with the support of the guarantor countries: the Republic of Cuba, the Kingdom of Norway and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Dialogue Delegation has returned safely and with guarantees,” read The document.
The office of the high commissioner for peace, Danilo Rueda, issued a statement in which he highlighted this “hopeful result” and pointed out that the Colombian government of Gustavo Petro continues to comply with the application of the protocols agreed between the State and the ELN as a “Fundamental step to achieve total peace.” He added that his office was aware of and accompanied the development of the return operation with “full guarantees.”
“The parties involved in this process have the common purpose of achieving the timely reestablishment of the dialogue table with the ELN,” he said.
In the protocols agreed with the government of Juan Manuel Santos, it was established that Venezuela was the agreed country for the return of the ELN peace delegates in case the process broke down or if they needed to return to consult with their troops. On September 14, President Gustavo Petro asked his counterpart Nicolás Maduro to be a guarantor in a possible peace process with the guerrilla group. A request that Maduro immediately agreed to.
The Colombian government decided on August 21 to suspend the arrest warrants and extradition requests against the delegates who were in Cuba to facilitate the new peace approaches.
The peace process with the ELN had been “frozen” since September 2018 by decision of then President Iván Duque. And on January 17, 2019, the situation was complicated by the attack by that guerrilla against a school for police cadets in Bogotá. Since then, Duque has terminated the dialogue table with that illegal armed group.
Venezuela, guarantor country of the negotiation between Colombia and the ELN
In early September, the disputed president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, agreed to act as guarantor of the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN. During a broadcast on the Venezuelan state television station (VTV), Maduro said that he accepted President Gustavo Petro’s proposal to seek peace between the guerrilla group and the Colombian government.
“Once again, as Commander Chávez did in his time, to guarantee the peace agreements that were later signed, and in which I had to participate as guarantor, once again, to President Gustavo Petro and to Colombia we say: Venezuela accepts the character of guarantor of the negotiations,” Maduro announced.
On September 13, the Colombian government released a letter that Petro sent to Maduro requesting his participation in the negotiations with the ELN.
In the letter, the Colombian president confirms that he had a telephone conversation with Maduro and asks him to activate Venezuela as a “guarantor country” for the reestablishment of the negotiating table with the ELN.
With information from Florencia Trucco, Stefano Pozzebon, Kiarinna Parisi and Fernando Ramos.