Colombian officials and members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) pose for a photo at the inauguration of the third cycle of peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba [Ramon Espinosa/The Associated Press]

Colombia’s government and National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels have agreed to extend their bilateral ceasefire by another six months, a statement released by both groups said.

An initial six-month ceasefire expired last week and was then extended by five days.

Negotiators from both sides, meeting in Havana, indicated that the Bilateral, National and Temporary Ceasefire (BNTFC) would last 180 days.

The statement, released around midnight, said ELN had decided to “unilaterally and temporarily suspend economic detentions, a commitment that will be followed up by the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism”.

Although the ELN suspended kidnapping during negotiations, its leaders asked the government for financial resources to maintain their fighters, an issue they are addressing in the talks.

President Gustavo Petro’s government restarted peace talks with the ELN in 2022 as part of a policy of “total peace” to end the South American country’s six-decade conflict, in which more than 450,000 people have been killed.

So far, Petro’s government has held six rounds of peace talks with the ELN, a process supported by Mexico, Norway, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and Chile, which are participating as guarantor countries.

Colombia´s president is also negotiating with the Estado Mayor Central (EMC), the largest armed group of the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

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