The last remaining rebel group in Colombia and the government have agreed to a cease-fire, marking the latest step in their nearly 60-year-long conflict towards peace.
Prior to a complete ceasefire in August, the National Liberation Army (ELN) announced that it would stop fighting as of this Thursday. .
The armed forces will also be instructed to stop offensives starting at that point, Colombia's defense minister confirmed.
The ELN, however, vowed to repel any assaults from the military or other armed groups.
The announcement follows last week's agreement on a six-month ceasefire. On August 3, this is scheduled to go into effect.
If it holds, it will mark the longest cease-fire the ELN has agreed to since the group started using force against the Colombian government in 1964.
But there is doubt about its likelihood of success. On the day the ceasefire was declared, three policemen were killed in northeastern Colombia by ELN members.
And a week prior, in the country's east, government forces killed six of the group's soldiers.
When he assumed office last year, Colombian President Gustavo Petro—himself a former fighter for the now-defunct M-19 rebel group—promised to bring "total peace" to the nation.
According to local media, he has not yet signed the order calling for a ceasefire.
Beginning in August, the guerrilla group and the Colombian government are scheduled to resume their peace talks in Venezuela.
As part of the historic 2016 peace agreement with the larger Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebel group, previous negotiations with the ELN failed.
The longest guerrilla conflict in the Americas was ended by that deal, despite its occasional shakiness.
The ELN is said to have thousands of members and is accused of making money from illegal mining and drug trafficking.
According to humanitarian organizations, fighting between armed groups like the ELN over territory has forced thousands of people from their homes.