Ecuador, Colombia set patch-up talks on security, bilateral ties

Oct. 14, 2009 at 4:40 PM
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QUITO, Ecuador, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Senior officials from Ecuador and Colombia will meet Friday for talks aimed at ending a diplomatic stalemate over a 2008 Colombian military strike into Ecuador in pursuit of Colombian rebels, and issues related to the U.S. bases in Colombia.

Analysts said the talks were likely to be open-ended as both sides need to cover much ground since the Colombian airstrike on March 1, 2008, ruptured bilateral ties.

Relations between the two countries since the diplomatic break have been marked by recrimination over bilateral issues and Ecuador's criticism of the U.S. use of Colombian bases as part of a war on Colombian drug cartels.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said the talks will be held in Ecuador's northern city of Ibarra and focus on defining a mechanism for reactivating joint operations for border security -- mainly to contain guerrilla activity.

Ecuador severed ties with Colombia two days after the 2008 attack, but Bogota said the air raid on a guerrilla base run by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was necessary in its war on the rebels. FARC has been battling successive governments in Bogota for more than four decades.

The raid killed a FARC leader in charge of the rebel group's foreign affairs, Raul Reyes, and 24 other people.

Ecuador's government denounced the military strike as a violation of its sovereignty. In an exchange of accusations Colombia accused Ecuador of receiving funds from FARC, a charge that Ecuador denies.

Ecuador also objects to the U.S. use of Colombian military bases for the joint Colombian-U.S. operations against drug trafficking and has backed Venezuela in its campaign against the bases.

Ecuador was host to U.S. anti-narcotics operations from its Manta base before the government announced it would not renew the 10-year lease, signed in 1999.

The last U.S. forces left the Manta base in September amid an official ceremony that was celebrated as Ecuador's return to full sovereignty.

The final end to the U.S. role at the Manta base came a few months after the United States and Colombia signed agreements extending U.S. forces' presence in Colombia.

Ecuador has joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the campaign against the bases, which Chavez claims are aimed at toppling his government.

Analysts said the normalization talks would need to lower the temperature between the two countries after Colombian comments attacking Ecuador President Rafael Correa.

In July a video release showed a FARC guerrilla commander speaking about Correa's election campaign. Correa denied the accusation.

Ecuador's government has not withdrawn its call for an international arrest warrant for Colombian Foreign Minister Juan Manuel Santos for ordering the 2008 raid into Colombia in pursuit of the FARC rebels.

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