BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday that he is ready to start talks with the country’s second-largest rebel movement.
He made the comment at a ceremony a day after the rebel National Liberation Army, known as the ELN, freed a Canadian engineer it had held for seven months. Santos had demanded as a condition for talks with the ELN that it free Gernot Wober, the Canadian kidnapped in January.
Santos’ government already is holding peace negotiations with Colombia’s biggest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
He said he was now open to having negotiations with the ELN, and expressed hope that the country can find an end to its half-century of conflict.
“The government is ready to take that step as well and hopefully we can arrange the procedures required to start as soon as possible a dialogue with the ELN, to see if we can put an end to this conflict,” Santos said.
Both of Colombia’s rebel groups formed in 1964 as an outgrowth of rural peasant movements that sought a more equitable distribution of land.