Colombia govt, ELN rebels announce demining plan

The representative of Colombian guerrilla group ELN, Pablo Beltran (L), and representative of the Colombian government Juan Camilo Restrepo shake hands at the Palacio Arzobispal in Quito where they arrived to hold a meeting on March 3, 2017

Colombia's government and the country's last active rebel force plan to start demining conflict areas, the armed group said Thursday.

The announcement by the National Liberation Army (ELN) came weeks after it launched peace talks with the government.

The ELN hopes that "by April 7 we can be organizing humanitarian demining activities in various regions," its chief negotiator Pablo Beltran said on Caracol Radio.

"There have been demands for that and we are going to listen. That is an agreement that will be reached in the negotiations."

Colombia ranks as the country with the second-biggest quantity of landmines after Afghanistan, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

The Colombian conflict erupted in 1964 and has drawn in various rebel and paramilitary groups and gangs as well as state forces.

Of the 260,000 people estimated by authorities to have died in the conflict, some 2,000 have been killed by landmines.

President Juan Manuel Santos says he wants a deal with the ELN to seal "complete peace" after signing an accord with the biggest rebel force, the FARC, in November.

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