By JORGE RUEDA
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday said his government will act as a “guarantor” in peace talks between Colombia’s government and the National Liberation Army rebel group that are slated to begin later this year.
Maduro said on national television that he had accepted a request by Colombian President Gustavo Petro to take on the diplomatic role, adding that his socialist government was interested in fomenting peace, security and stability in Colombia and “throughout the continent.”
Previous peace talks between the Colombian government and rebel groups have included the participation of “guarantor nations” that have acted as observers of the negotiations and supported both sides with logistics.
Venezuela was a guarantor nation in a previous round of negotiations between Colombia and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, that began in 2016. But the Colombian government asked the Maduro administration to step down from that role in 2018, as political tensions increased between the countries. The following year Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia after its government participated in a U.S.-led effort to force Maduro out of office.
Petro has begun to normalize relations with Venezuela since he was elected earlier this year and became Colombia’s first leftist president.
Diplomatic relations have been re-established and the border between both nations will be reopened to cargo trucks later this month.
The National Liberation Army operates along both sides of the porous 1,500-mile long border between both nations. In a report published earlier this year, Human Rights Watch said that some division of Venezuela’s military had conducted joint operations with the National Liberation Army against another group of rebels operating within Venezuela, in order to obtain control of drug trafficking routes.
The Venezuelan government has denied claims that it supports the National Liberation Army.