President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday night said his government was in "exploratory discussions" to end more than four decades of conflict with Colombia's largest rebel group.
In a short televised address, Santos said the government had engaged in discussion with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, but he did not disclose details such as where the talks were held.
Meetings have been held in Cuba, according to news reports and speculation. Santos reportedly has sent security advisor Sergio Jaramillo to Havana to talk with FARC representatives.
Colombian government officials had not acknowledged peace talks with the FARC since 2002, when the so-called Caguan peace initiative launched by President Andres Pastrana collapsed in bitterness and recriminations.
Pastrana ceded the FARC a demilitarized zone the size of Switzerland from 1999 to 2002, but the rebels never fully cooperated, using the time and the zone, dubbed "FARC-land," to strengthen their military position.
A disillusioned Colombian electorate soon voted in hard-line President Alvaro Uribe with a mandate to pursue a battlefield victory. Uribe, benefiting from the $8-billion U.S. aid package called Plan Colombia, ordered the armed forces to win back territory and rout the rebels.