Colombia, Venezuela presidents meet on diplomatic rift

Monday, August 9, 2010
BOGOTA – Agence France-Presse

The presidents of Colombia and Venezuela meet Tuesday in a new high-level bid to calm a row between the two neighbors that has sparked concerns of a regional military conflict.

Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Chavez was expected to hold their summit at a yet-to-be-decided location in Colombian territory to discuss their bilateral relation, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin announced after a meeting in Bogota Sunday with her Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro attended Santos's presidential swearing-in ceremony on Saturday. Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia on July 22, one week after Santos's predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, accused it of harboring some 1,500 leftist rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and National Liberation Army, ELN, Colombia's second-largest guerrilla force.

Chavez, who has strongly denied the charge and sent additional troops to his border with Colombia, said in Caracas that he was willing to "turn the page" and work with Colombia's new president. "Today I'll go to bed a happy man," Chavez said after the summit was announced.

He said the venue had not been decided, but that both sides were "evaluating" several options. "We'll be working hard for Tuesday's meeting... It's going to be the start of a new relationship for the good of both countries," Chavez assured.

Holguin said in Bogota that the two countries aimed "to restore relations within a framework of transparency."