May 10, 2018 / 6:48 PM / in 14 days

Colombia, ELN rebels renew peace talks in Havana

HAVANA (Reuters) - Colombia and ELN rebels renewed peace talks to end more than five decades of war in Havana on Thursday after original host Ecuador in April pulled its support for the negotiations as long as the guerrillas continued to wage attacks.

Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) negotiator Pablo Beltran and Colombia's government negotiator Gustavo Bell shake hands during peace talks between ELN and the Colombian government in Havana, Cuba, May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Both sides, which started talks 15 months ago in Quito, said on Thursday they wanted to focus on reaching a new ceasefire deal. Their first agreement ended in January and was followed by a period of increased violence and a six-week pause in talks.

Colombia’s conflict between the government, rebel groups, paramilitaries and crime gangs has killed at least 220,000 people and displaced millions.

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“We are conscious that we need to make decisive steps and the time has arrived to finalize a stable and more robust bilateral ceasefire,” the Colombian government’s chief negotiator Gustavo Bell said.

Colombia has been at war with the National Liberation Army (ELN), founded by radical Catholic priests, since 1964.

Cuba was also the host for the four-year long negotiations between the Andean country’s government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who reached a peace accord in 2016.

Reporting by Nelson Acosta and Sarah Marsh; editing by Grant McCool

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