Venezuela and Colombia agree to restore diplomatic ties


Countries will appoint new ambassadors when Colombia’s elected president Gustavo Petro takes office next month, officials say.

Colombia and Venezuela will appoint new ambassadors in their respective capitals when Colombian President-elect Gustavo Petro takes office next month, authorities said, in a bid to rebuild diplomatic relations after years of tension.

The decision was announced Thursday in a joint statement by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Carlos Faria and Colombian Foreign Minister Alvaro Leyva after a meeting in the border city of San Cristobal.

Leyva read a statement saying that both men had “expressed their desire to move forward with a work agenda towards the gradual normalization of bilateral relations from August 7 through the appointment of ambassadors and diplomatic and consular officers”.

They also reaffirmed “their willingness to make joint efforts to ensure security and peace at the borders of our two countries,” he added.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been strained for years over a range of issues, including an increase in the number of Venezuelan migrants crossing the country’s common border amid a socio-economic crisis in their country.

The 2,219 km border has been the scene of clashes between armed groups, including dissidents from the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

That sparked tensions between neighbors, with Colombia’s outgoing president Ivan Duque accusing his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro of harboring armed groups, and Maduro alleging that Duque participated in attempts to overthrow his government.

Duque also refused to recognize Maduro’s re-election in 2019, exacerbating the diplomatic divide.

But Petro, who will become Colombia’s first leftist president when he is sworn in on Aug. 7, has promised to restore relations with Venezuela.

Petro, a former rebel, has also called on the ELN to work with the government on a ceasefire, saying the “time for peace has come”.

Leyva, the country’s new foreign minister, called Thursday’s meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart “historic” and said they had discussed “the gradual opening of the border”.

The border was closed between 2019 and October 2021, while embassies and consulates in both countries were closed and flights between neighbors were grounded.

Colombia continues to struggle with years of deadly armed violence between state security forces, right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing rebel groups such as the FARC.

A landmark report released in June by the country’s Truth Commission found that at least 450,664 people have died in nearly six decades of conflict, a toll it called “enormous and unbearable.”

Venezuela, for its part, has been plagued by political instability in recent years. Economic turmoil, a lack of food and medicine and violence have forced millions of people to leave the country, according to a United Nations census.

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