News story | Date: 2017-02-07 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
‘It is very good news that the Colombian Government and the guerrilla group ELN have now started formal negotiations. A lasting peace settlement in Colombia will not be possible unless the ELN are also on board,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.
The peace talks started today in Ecuador. In advance of the negotiations, the ELN had released the hostage Odín Sánchez and the Government had pardoned and released two ELN prisoners. In both cases, Norwegian diplomats were involved, as part of a humanitarian commission that also includes representatives of the Catholic Church and of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
‘The start of peace talks with the ELN comes at an important juncture in the Colombian peace process. Over the last week, thousands of FARC soldiers have moved into the zones where the disarmament of the guerrillas will soon begin. The fact that negotiations with the ELN have finally started and the concrete results we are now seeing from the peace agreement with the FARC are giving the people of Colombia hope that a lasting peace settlement is possible,’ said Mr Brende.
The ELN, like the FARC, has been part of the over 50-year armed conflict in Colombia. The conflict has caused widespread humanitarian suffering; over two hundred thousand people have been killed and millions have been internally displaced. Norway has assisted the parties since the start of talks between the ELN and the Government over three years ago. Together with Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela, Norway will also act as facilitator for the talks in the formal phase.