Colombia mends ties with Ecuador

President Santos' efforts to improve diplomatic relations with neighbouring Ecuador and Venezuela bear fruit.

    Venezuela is reuming fuel shipments to Colombia, a sign of the warming ties between the two countries [EPA]

    Colombia and Ecuador have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations that were suspended more than two years ago over a bombing raid into Ecuadorean territory.
     
    "We've decided to fully re-establish our relations. I celebrate this very important step for our peoples," Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, said on Friday at a one-day summit of South American leaders in Guyana.

    Colombia attacked a rebel camp across the border with Ecuador in March 2008, killing 25 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), including Raul Reyes, the group's second-in-command.

    The raid was co-ordinated by Santos, who was defence minister at the time, and it triggered a regional crisis. Ecuador withdrew its ambassador and broke off relations in protest.

    'Right direction'

    However, Santo and Rafael Correa, his Ecuadorean counterpart, have now agreed that their respective ambassadors are set to return to their posts before Christmas.

    "I have to recognise the transparency and goodwill of Santos for responding to sensitive issues presented by Ecuador. We've started to move in the right direction," Correa said 

    Relations between the two neighbours have warmed considerably in recent months.

    "Without forgetting the past, which we cannot and should not erase, we have to look to the future and for the good of our people we must totally ... restore diplomatic relations," Correa said in an interview with television network Telesur.

    Since taking office in August, Santos has moved quickly to repair ties with Ecuador. Colombia has now shared information with Ecuador about the 2008 bombing, according to Santos.

    Santos has also worked to improve his relationship with Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, after tensions following accusations from Bogota that Caracas was supporting Farc.

    'Political miracle'

    Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the former Brazilian president, described a budding friendship between former ideological foes Santos and Chavez as a "political miracle".

    Chavez and Santos, who were bitter ideological rivals before the Colombian took office, smiled and laughed at the meeting, their third encounter in three months.

    Venezuela said on Friday that it would restart fuel shipments to the Colombian state of Norte de Santander, a further sign of the warming ties. The two countries are also moving to restore billions of dollars of annual trade lost in recent years.

    Ivan Orellana, the deputy hydrocarbons minister, told the state-run Venezuelan News Agency on Friday that the shipments will resume December 1.

    Venezuelan officials plan to resume shipments to other Colombian border states later.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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