Venezuela reopening embassy in Colombia

March 9, 2008 7:48:47 PM PDT
Venezuela said Sunday that it was restoring full diplomatic ties with Colombia that were broken off in a regional crisis sparked by a cross-border Colombian attack on a leftist rebel camp in Ecuador.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said it was reopening its embassy in Colombia and will allow back Colombian diplomats it expelled last week. It cited an easing of tensions at a summit in the Dominican Republic on Friday, where President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa shook hands with Colombia's U.S.-backed leader, Alvaro Uribe, after a tense debate.

Venezuela described the reconciliation as a "victory for peace and sovereignty."

Chavez ordered the Venezuelan embassy in Bogota closed and sent troops to the border with Colombia after Uribe's government carried out a March 1 strike in Ecuador that killed 25 people including Raul Reyes, a spokesman and top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Venezuela also said it was expelling Colombia's ambassador and all diplomatic personnel.

The crisis deescalated at the summit, where Colombia pledged not to follow through on its threat to seek genocide charges against Chavez at an international court for allegedly supporting the FARC, which finances its insurgency through kidnapping and the cocaine trade.

Uribe apologized for the raid and pledged not to violate another nation's sovereignty again. A joint statement issued at the summit also committed all the countries to fighting threats to national stability from "irregular or criminal groups," a reference to Colombia's accusation that its two neighbors have ties to rebels.

But the agreement didn't eliminate the causes of the crisis: the Colombian insurgency that has spilled across its borders, and a stalemate over international efforts to facilitate a swap of rebel-held hostages for imprisoned guerrillas.

Correa said Saturday on his weekly radio show that it will be "difficult to recover trust" in Uribe's government. Restoring diplomatic ties "will take a little time," he said.