Neighbours fail to end Venezuela-Colombia rift

Last Updated: Friday, July 30, 2010 - 11:43

Quito: South American foreign ministers failed to mend broken ties between Venezuela and Colombia at a meeting on Thursday but the countries agreed that irregular armed groups were hurting peace in the region.

The gathering of the 12-member Union of South American Nations was the first encounter between the two governments since Venezuela`s socialist President Hugo Chavez severed relations last week over Bogota`s charges his country harbors Colombian guerrillas in comfortable camps.

Chavez then warned that close US ally Colombia was planning a military attack, and threatened to stop the OPEC nation`s oil supplies to the United States if that happened.

Venezuela`s Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said his Colombian counterpart "gave his word" that no such attack would happen in the last week of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe`s government.

Flanked by the feuding nations` top diplomats at a news conference after Thursday`s meeting, Ecuador`s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the countries` heads of state should meet in coming weeks to seek to fix the crisis.

"It was not possible to draw up an official document with everyone`s agreement," Patino said, but added the officials present did agree that illegal armed groups were a problem.

The volatile Andean region is plagued by rebels, paramilitary fighters and drug traffickers.

"To preserve the peace in the region and harmony between us, the member states here consider it important that we have a clear commitment to avoid the presence of irregular groups that take part in illegal activities," Patino said.

The rift is a headache for incoming Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who takes over from Alvaro Uribe on August 07 and has vowed to improve relations and revive billions of dollars in lost trade.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, July 30, 2010 - 11:43
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