Senior representatives from the Santos administration and ELN will reportedly meet in Cuba before the end of the year to discuss peace.
According to an El Colombiano source, the ELN delegation would likely be led by alias “Pablo Beltran”, a senior guerrilla from the group’s central command.
If the exploratory talks with ELN are successful they could lead to a peace process parallel to the ongoing negotiations between the Colombian government and guerrilla group FARC, which are also underway in Cuba.
For months, the Colombian government has avoided an outright public commitment to peace talks with ELN rebels, preferring to focus on the FARC peace talks. On November 16, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos ruled out the idea that ELN would participate in the negotiations with FARC saying, “we will not open the door for the ELN during these negotiations.”
For its part, ELN had only days earlier said, “We announce to the country and to the international community that the ELN delegation for exploratory dialog is formed and ready to carry out its promise to Colombia.”
The ELN is Colombia’s second largest guerrilla group, behind FARC, with an estimated 2,500 active combatants. Like FARC, ELN has been at war with the state since the 1960s.