The Colombian government and the ELN have agreed to start peace talks

‘I am very pleased that the Colombian government and the guerrilla group ELN have overcome the latest obstacles and that formal negotiations can commence,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende. The Colombian government and the ELN agreed today to start negotiations on 7 February.

The two parties have agreed that, before peace talks start in Quito, ELN will release the kidnapped, former congressman Odín Sánchez, while the government, in turn, will release four jailed ELN members, two of which will be pardoned. A humanitarian commission, of which Norway is a member, will participate in the release of Sánchez and the two pardoned ELN members.

‘The news that the parties have reached an understanding and that formal negotiations can start, send a positive signal to the Colombian people and the Colombian Congress, which is currently deliberating important bills for implementation of the peace agreement with the Farc,’ said Mr Brende.

‘A lasting peace in Colombia will not be possible without ELN. With the ELN talks under way, Norway will do whatever it can to help ensure that these negotiations also result in a peace agreement,’ said Minister Brende.

Following several years of confidential dialogue, the parties announced in March 2016 that they had agreed on a six-item agenda for the negotiations. An attempt to start the talks in October 2016 broke down at the last minute.

The negotiations are starting at a time when the Colombian government and the Farc are in the process of implementing the peace agreement from November last year. ELN, like Farc, has been part of the more than 50-year-long armed conflict in Colombia.

Norway has assisted the parties since the confidential phase started three years ago. Along with Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela, Norway will act as a facilitator in the formal phase as well.