05 Dec 2023, 08:15

Colombia and ELN rebels start fifth round of peace talks

MEXICO CITY, Dec 5, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - The Colombian government and rebels from the National Liberation Army (ELN) started a fifth round of peace talks in Mexico City, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

The negotiations, hoping to put to rest six decades of fighting between Bogota and the left-wing insurgency, come after the recent kidnapping of the fathe

r of Liverpool footballer Luis Diaz, which had threatened to upend a delicate ceasefire.

The agenda for the meetings -- continuing on from talks started more than a year ago -- was not disclosed.

"We trust that, with the willingness of both parties and the support of the international community, this new round of negotiations in our country will open the way to reaching a definitive and lasting solution to the conflict," the Mexican foreign ministry said in a statement.

Diaz's father, Luis Manuel Diaz, was released on November 9 after being kidnapped for 12 days.

The ELN, which along with the Colombian government is party to a six-month ceasefire that entered into force in August, described the kidnapping by one of its units as a "mistake."

Luis Manuel Diaz and his wife Cilenis Marulanda had been abducted by armed men on motorcycles at a gas station in their home town of Barrancas near the Venezuelan border on October 28.

Marulanda was rescued hours later, before a massive search operation by ground and air was launched for her husband.

But the incident put both the peace talks and the cease-fire in peril, with President Gustavo Petro saying it led to a loss of trust between the government and the rebels, whose 5,800 fighters constitute the oldest guerrilla group still operating in Latin America after the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) surrendered their weapons in 2016.

Previous rounds of talks have been held in Venezuela and Cuba.

Petro took office last 16 months ago with the stated goal of achieving "total peace" in a country ravaged by decades of fighting between the security forces, leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.