World Bulletin/News Desk
Colombia's second largest armed group the National Liberation Army (ELN) laid down weapons on Tuesday.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos defined the ELN's move as "a great step towards peace" following his meeting with ELN's 30 members in Cali, a city in western Colombia.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the oldest and largest group among Colombia's left-wing rebels established in 1960s inspired by the Cuban revolution and Marxist ideology along with ELN, has engaged in direct talks between FARC and the goverment launched in November 2012.
Although the ELN, with its 500 fighters approximately, was initially left out of the peace talks, it decided to leave arms following its leaders' statements that they could be part of the negotiations as well.
30 members from the core circle of the ELN laid down arms in Cauca region, in the southeast of the country at a meeting with Colombian President Santos.
Santos said every single FARC and ELN member should continue to struggle for their goals without getting armed again or resorting to any kind of violence.
The ELN reached the height of its power in the late 1990s, carrying out hundreds of kidnappings and hitting infrastructure such as oil pipelines.
The ELN ranks have since declined from around 4,000 to an estimated 1,500, suffering defeats at the hands of the security forces and paramilitaries.
FARC also gives green light to finalize a peace agreement
FARC's chief negotiator Ivan Marquez, too, said Monday that almost 50 years of conflict was about to come to an end, and during negotiations in Cuba, he called on leftist organizations and syndicates to get involved in the peace process.
However Colombian government pressurizes for signing a peace agreement until November, while Marquez believes that there was need for more time, emphasizing "a bad peace agreement was worse than war".
There are six main issues at the heart of the peace talks which are political participation, disarmament, drug trafficking, victims' rights, implementation of peace agreement and land reform, being the only agreed-upon article for now.
FARC is believed to have around 8000 fighters now, while the number was around 16000 in 2001.
This is the fourth attempt for a peace agreement to end the conflict maintains itself since 1960s.
Both groups are on US and European lists of terrorist organizations.Last Mod: 17 Temmuz 2013, 15:51