The Colombian government is to start formal peace talks with the ELN – or National Liberation Army – the country’s second largest rebel group.
President Juan Manuel Santos is attempting to salvage a truce deal with the bigger FARC guerilla group after 50.2 percent of voters rejected it earlier this month.
He is calling for the ELN to release the people they’re holding hostage.
“On October 27 the government will start public negotiations with the ELN about the agenda released on March 30. For this to happen, it is essential that the release process (of captives) begins so that there will never again be captives of the ELN in Colombia,” the president said.
The approximately 2,000-strong ELN said the issue of freeing hostages should form part of the peace negotiations. But their stance appears to have eased in the past two weeks, with the release of three people and a promise to free a further two people before the discussions begin in Ecuador.
Santos said the rebels had also committed to not carrying out any further kidnappings.
Last week, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve a 52-year conflict with the leftist FARC insurgents. He has since welcomed the idea of “complete peace” in Colombia, if the group and the ELN can reach an agreement to give up fighting.