Gunmen claiming to belong to Colombia's last rebel group kidnapped an engineer in the country's east, police said Saturday, after peace talks broke down between the ELN rebels and Bogota.
Rafael Andres Rian, a 41-year-old Colombian petroleum engineer was abducted from an office in Saravena, near the border with Venezuela, by "two masked men with pistols who identified themselves as members of the ELN," police said in a statement.
The kidnapping took place just ahead of the arrival in Bogota of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who supports peace negotiations between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels.
Guterres was scheduled to meet with Santos on Saturday afternoon and members of the UN mission, which monitors compliance with the peace agreement between the government and guerrilla group turned political party FARC.
However experts say international input is "not enough" to prompt a return to the negotiating table or any changes in position.
"The visit will not have a great impact on the negotiations' resumption," international affairs expert Arlene Tickner told AFP.
Santos on Wednesday announced the peace talks were suspended in response to what he said were guerrilla attacks.
Talks had been set to resume in neighboring Ecuador, but a 101-day ceasefire expired without agreement to extend it.
A pact with the ELN would close the last chapter of a half-century conflict in the South American nation; following a deal struck by Nobel Peace Prize-winning Santos in November 2016 with the much larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents.
Under that peace deal, the FARC has disarmed, demobilized its fighters, and transformed into a political party using the same acronym.
The United Nations is willing to send more resources to Colombia to help the Andean country care for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing food shortages and economic devastation in their homeland, Guterres said on Saturday.
Guterres is on a two-day visit to Colombia to discuss the progress of its peace deal with the FARC rebels and ongoing peace talks with smaller guerrilla group the ELN, which recently re-started attacks after a months-long ceasefire.
Venezuelans fleeing acute food shortages, high crime and political unrest have flooded across the border to Colombia in recent years. Some visit just to buy groceries, while others begin lives from scratch, often working informally and without visas.
Last year Colombia extended permits for Venezuelans in a humanitarian measure - the government estimates there are some 470,000 Venezuelans in the country.
"I want to manifest all the support of the United Nations to the government and people of Colombia in this humanitarian effort, the reception of all these people, and say that we are even willing to mobilize other international help as is possible," Guterres said after meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos, ministers and security officials.
There has long been diplomatic tension between the neighboring governments. Santos has accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of destroying democracy in Venezuela, while Maduro has said Colombia is part of an international conspiracy seeking to overthrow his government.
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