The announcement came one day after the country’s second largest rebel group released a Canadian miner it had held hostage since January.
“The government is ready to begin peace talks with the ELN,” said Santos while swearing in two magistrates of the State Council.
“The government is ready to take that step. Hopefully we can work out the necessary procedures to start dialogue with the ELN to see if once and for all we can put an end to this conflict with the two groups involved in it,” Santos added.
In spite of repeated calls by the ELN to join peace talks currently held with the FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla organization, Santos rejected talks as long as the rebels were holding Canadian Jernoc Wobert hostage.
Following Wobert’s release, the Red Cross said it was available to use its contacts with the rebel group to mediate the realization of peace talks.
The ELN has been fighting the Colombian state since 1964. While sharing similar ideologies with the FARC, the ELN frequently clashed with the larger rebel group until a non-aggression pact was agreed earlier this year by FARC leader “Timochenko” and ELN chief “Gabino.”
If the Santos administration succeeds in brokering peace with both rebel groups, it will make an end to an almost 50-year guerrilla war that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Colombians.