Foreign ministers of Colombia, Venezuela discuss troubled ties

(dpa) - Foreign Ministers Fernando Araujo of Colombia and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela met Monday to discuss the diplomatic ties between the two neighbours, which have been troubled in recent months.

Araujo and Maduro held a breakfast meeting in the framework of the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Medellin, the second-largest city in Colombia.

The gathering at a Medellin hotel was not as productive as it could have been, according to Araujo, due to "lack of time." However, the two ministers managed to go through some key aspects of the bilateral agenda.

"We talked about security issues, we put forward Colombia's interests, we listened to Venezuela's interests. We talked about the need to revitalize some issues that have grown cold, like trade, security and border integration," the Colombian minister said.

Maduro described the meeting as "very frank" despite the differences between the two countries.

"We have different visions of some processes that are taking place on the continent, different visions of some elements of bilateral policy, but we have ratified the need to keep open communication on the various issues," Maduro said.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been tense since Colombian President Alvaro Uribe cancelled the mediation of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in efforts to secure an exchange of prisoners between Colombian authorities and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Ties deteriorated further after a cross-border Colombian raid into Ecuador on March 1, which killed FARC number-two Raul Reyes and 25 other people.

Ecuador broke relations with Colombia and Chavez backed Quito, sending additional troops to the border between Venezuela and Colombia at the lowest point in bilateral ties in many years.

The tension eased somewhat since then, but Colombian officials have said they found evidence in Reyes' computers of Chavez's ties with FARC.

"We have told them that we want them to stop all kinds of public campaigns in relation to these issues that Colombian and Venezuelan public opinion knows very well," said Maduro.

The OAS General Assembly meeting is set to end Tuesday. The ongoing crisis between Ecuador and Colombia over the raid already marked the first day of diplomatic activity Sunday, and the Ecuadorian government asked OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza to evaluate documents found in Reyes' computers.

As he opened the General Assembly meeting late Sunday, Uribe reinforced his apology for the raid into Ecuadorian territory and reiterated his request that neighbours help his country put an end to rebel violence.

"The only thing we want is for you to help us live like you live. We feel envy of the good kind," Uribe said.

He asked OAS members not to hesitate to call Colombia's rebel groups "terrorists," of which he stressed they have ties with the drug trade.

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