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Venezuela agrees to help in Colombia peace talks

By AFP - Sep 14,2022 - Last updated at Sep 14,2022

Handout photo released by the Venezuelan Presidency showing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro waving to the crowd during a working day dedicated to the Good Communal Governance, meetings he holds to evaluate Government programmes, in Caracas, on Tuesday (AFP photo)

BOGOTA — Leftist Venezuela has agreed to be a guarantor of future peace talks between Colombia and its last guerrilla group, both countries said on Tuesday night.

This is the latest move toward strong new relations that had been severed until Gustavo Petro took power this month as the first leftist leader ever in Colombia.

Colombia has asked the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro to be guarantor of talks with the National Liberation Army, or ELN, the last active rebel group in a country torn by decades of conflict.

In a speech, Maduro said, “Of course we agree!”

It thus joins Chile and Cuba as guarantors of talks that the Bogota government hopes to hold with the ELN.

Colombia and its largest rebel group, the FARC, signed an historic peace accord in 2016 after decades of war.

Venezuela took part in that peace process, with Maduro involved at first as foreign minister in the government of the late socialist icon Hugo Chavez, then after 2013 as his successor.

“Peace in Colombia is peace in South America,” Maduro said on Tuesday.

Petro wants to resume talks with the ELN that his conservative predecessor Ivan Duque had started. They broke off after a rebel attack in 2019 that left 22 people dead.

Representatives of Petro’s government and the ELN have already met in Havana.

Petro has said there would soon be a meeting with the ELN in Venezuela, which Colombian military intelligence has said is hosting senior ELN leaders.

After Petro took power in August, Colombia and Venezuela restored diplomatic relations after three years of rupture triggered by Colombia’s recognising opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

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