Colombia’s government will begin much-delayed formal peace talks with the country’s second-biggest rebel group the ELN on Feb. 7, after the guerrillas release a politician being held hostage, the two sides said on Wednesday.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) will release politician Odin Sanchez on Feb. 2, meeting a repeated government requirement, negotiators said in a joint statement in Quito, Ecuador near where the talks will take place.
President Juan Manuel Santos had said earlier on Wednesday that the talks would begin on Feb. 8. The statement said two ELN members will be released from prison in Colombia to participate in the negotiations.
The ELN will release Sanchez to the International Committee of the Red Cross. He has been captive for more than eight months.
“If he is not released, there will simply be no negotiation, That has always been the position of the Colombian government and my position,” Santos told journalists in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum. …