Talks with leftist guerrillas in Venezuela are part of President Gustavo Petro’s promise to bring "total peace" to Colombia.

The talks will be hosted by Venezuela, Cuba, and Norway, the guarantors of the process, on a rotating basis.
The talks will be hosted by Venezuela, Cuba, and Norway, the guarantors of the process, on a rotating basis. (AP)

Colombia's government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the last recognised rebel group in the country, resumed formal peace talks in Venezuela for the first time since they were suspended in 2019.

In their first meeting on Monday, the parties agreed to "resume the dialogue process with full political and ethical will," according to a joint statement.

They added that the talks aim to "build peace" and make "tangible, urgent, and necessary" changes.

Last month, delegates from the government and ELN agreed to restart the talks after meeting in Caracas.

The talks will be hosted by Venezuela, Cuba, and Norway, the guarantors of the process, on a rotating basis.

The ELN has around 2,500 members, about 700 more than it did when negotiations were broken off.

It is primarily active in the Pacific region and along the 2,200-kilometer (1,370-mile) border with Venezuela.

READ MORE: Venezuela to host new peace talks between Colombia, ELN guerrillas

'Total peace' policy

Dialogue with the group started in 2016 under ex-president Juan Manuel Santos, who signed a peace treaty with the larger Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group, which subsequently abandoned its weapons and created a political party.

But the talks with the ELN were called off in 2019 by conservative former president Ivan Duque following a car bomb attack on a police academy in Bogota that left 22 people dead.

President Gustavo Petro, who in August became Colombia's first-ever leftist leader, has vowed to take a less bellicose approach to seeking an end to the violence wrought by armed groups, including leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers.

He reached out to the ELN shortly after coming to power, as part of his "total peace" policy.

Colombia has suffered more than half a century of armed conflict between the state and various groups of left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

"The causes that provoked the armed conflict, which are inequality, the lack of democracy, inequity, must be confronted," ELN commander Antonio Garcia said last month.

READ MORE: Colombia's Petro proposes 'bilateral ceasefire' to ELN guerrillas

Source: AFP