Colombia's government are set to begin talks soon that could lead to formal negotiations for peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, the nation's largest rebel group, according to Latin America media reports.
As part of the deal to hold talks, the government has agreed that leaders of FARC would not be extradited to another country to stand trial, a Colombian intelligence source said on Monday.
One aide at the office of Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president, has flatly denied that any talks are taking place, but a second aide said only that any official word on peace dealings would come from Santos himself.
Details of the accord are still being worked out, but the negotiations could take place in Cuba or in Norway, the source said.
'Peace at any cost'
But Al Jazeera's Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, said "everything started some months ago" when Santos met with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez and asked him to begin a mediation process.
Santos is expected to address the media in the coming hours. If the Colombian president does indeed announce the talks, it will end "months of speculation" about the potential talks in the nation, said our correspondent.
Barack Obama, the US president, is said to be aware of the process and is in agreement, the source told the Reuters news agency.
News of the peace talks is likely to anger Alvaro Uribe, Santos' predecessor who has criticised any idea of talks with the rebels and has admonished Santos for wanting "peace at any cost".
The FARC, which calls itself "the people's army" defending peasant rights, has battled about a dozen administrations since appearing in 1964, when its founder Manuel Marulanda and 48 rebels fought off thousands of troops in jungle hide-outs.
The group has faced its toughest defeats in recent years as US-trained special forces use sophisticated technology and spy networks to track the leaders.
The FARC's string of defeats began in 2008 with a cross-border military raid into Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes, its second in command.
Marulanda died of a heart attack weeks later and was replaced by Alfonso Cano, who was later killed too.
The drug-funded group is led by Timoleon Jimenez, known by his war alias "Timochenko."
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies