Colombian, Venezuelan leaders to hold first meeting since spat

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 16, 2013 3:13 PM
Colombian, Venezuelan leaders to hold first meeting since spat

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, plan to meet next week in their first encounter since a diplomatic spat in May triggered by Santos' meeting with Venezuela's main opposition leader.

Maduro was infuriated by what he called Santos' "betrayal" for meeting Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost Venezuela's presidential election in April, and accused Santos of being part of a plot to overthrow him.

"On Monday I will meet on the border with President Maduro for a complete revision of the state of relations," Santos said in a message from his Twitter account on Tuesday. He did not specify on which side of the border the meeting would take place.

Maduro, in a televised broadcast, confirmed the meeting, saying the precise location had not yet been determined.

The South American nations have had patchy relations for the last decade due largely to ideological differences, but center-right Santos' diplomatic approach since taking office in 2010 has eased tensions.

Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said this week relations with Caracas were "a little cold" but added that dialogue had continued since the diplomatic scuffle.

Capriles' visit to Colombia's presidential palace was part of a planned tour of Latin American countries to press his case that the election that Maduro won by a margin of 1.5 percentage points was fraudulent.

Maduro, the political heir of late socialist President Hugo Chavez, put bilateral relations under review and questioned whether Venezuela would remain involved in peace talks held in Cuba between the Colombian government and Marxist FARC rebels.

Chavez died in March after a long battle with cancer.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy, Nelson Bocanegra and Monica Garcia; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)