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Columbia. The ELN authorities and rebels took the first steps towards a ceasefire

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The Colombian government and the left-wing guerrilla group ELN have taken the first steps towards a bilateral, temporary ceasefire, the heads of delegations that participated in the peace talks announced at the end of the second round of negotiations in Mexico.

The ELN is the oldest remaining rebel group in Colombiaand the talks are the cornerstone of efforts by leftist President Gustavo Petro, a former member of the demobilized M-19 insurgents, to bring “total peace” to Colombia.

Petro promised to negotiate peace deals with the remaining rebels and gangs, and to implement a previous agreement with Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) signed in 2016.

The Colombian government and the ELN rebels took the first steps towards a ceasefireSashenka Gutierrez/PAP/EPA

“We have taken the first steps to consolidate a bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire that will create better conditions for Colombian mobilization and participation in the peace process,” said Pablo Beltran of the ELN.

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Peace negotiations in Colombia

The ceasefire will be the main challenge of the third round of negotiations, which is to take place on Cubaas well as the development of a “pilot plan” for peace and expansion of participation in the talks, said the head of the government delegation, Otty Patino.

The ceasefire would mark important progress after the turmoil – which occurred late last year – over Petro’s announcement of an agreed cessation of hostilities, which forced the two sides to hold brief talks in Caracas.

On New Year’s Eve, Petro announced a ceasefire, but a few days later the ELN denied the agreement. Previous negotiations with the ELN had failed after opposition within its ranks. The conflict in Colombia, which has been going on for nearly six decades, has resulted in the deaths of at least 450,000 people.

Main photo source: Sashenka Gutierrez/PAP/EPA

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