After months of foot-dragging and doubts, Colombia's second-largest guerrilla group has released a key hostage, clearing the way for formal peace talks, President Juan Manuel Santos announced Thursday.
Speaking at a summit of Nobel Laureates that's being held in Bogotá, Santos confirmed that the National Liberation Army (ELN) had released former congressman Odín Sánchez, who had been kidnapped since April.
The government had been demanding his release as a prerequisite to starting peace talks with the ELN in neighboring Ecuador. Santos said those talks will begin on Tuesday.
The country is currently implementing a peace deal with the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the inclusion of the ELN is expected to strengthen that process.
Expectations have been building about ELN talks since March 30, when the guerrillas and the government announced they had reached a framework agreement for conversations.