Two sides invite Brazil, Chile and Mexico to guarantor negotiations to end decades of armed conflict.

The Colombian government and the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN) rebel group have invited more countries, including the United States. involved in peace talks that started earlier this week in Venezuela.

The two sides agreed on Friday to invite Brazil, Chile and Mexico to join Cuba, Norway and Venezuela as so-called guarantor countries in negotiations seeking to end decades of armed conflict in the South American nation.

The new round of talks resumed on Monday in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, after the trial was suspended in 2019.

After a week of discussions, Colombia’s government and the ELN said in a statement that they have been operating in an “environment of confidence and optimism”.

The negotiating teams said they would invite Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain to join the process as “accompanying countries”.

They also agreed to contact the US through diplomatic channels “to find out if they are willing to participate in the process” and to send a special envoy to the negotiating table, according to a statement from Norway.

The talks this week came as Colombia announced the six-year anniversary of a peace deal in which members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), another rebel group, laid down their weapons.

But some FARC dissidents rejected the deal and have taken up arms again.

Violence has increased in Colombia in recent years, especially in parts of the country outside government control where armed groups are involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

President Gustavo Petro, who took office in Augusthas pledged to bring “total peace” to Colombia after nearly six decades of armed violence that left at least 450,000 dead between 1985 and 2018 alone.

Past negotiation attempts with the ELN, the country’s largest remaining rebel group with about 2,500 combatants, have not progressed, in part because of discord within its ranks.

ELN leaders say the group is united, but it is unclear how much power negotiators have over active units. The group operates primarily in the Pacific region and along the 2,200 km (1,370 mi) border with Venezuela.

Talks between the ELN and the government of Juan Manuel Santos began in Ecuador in 2017 and later moved to Cuba, but were called off in 2019 by Santos’ successor, Ivan Duque, after the ELN bombed a police academy in Bogota.

On Friday, Colombia and the ELN also agreed to resume humanitarian aid, but gave no details. About 30 delegates are attending the talks, which are expected to last three weeks.

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