Ecuador, Colombia Talk Again 1½ Yrs After Raid

By: Gonzalo Solano - AP Writer
By: Gonzalo Solano - AP Writer

Ecuador and Colombia will hold direct talks to mend diplomatic relations that ruptured a year-and-a-half ago after a cross-border military raid that killed Colombian rebels inside Ecuador, officials said Monday.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said he will meet with his Colombian counterpart, Jaime Bermudez, early next week on the sidelines of a U.N. Assembly General meeting in New York. The Sept. 22 meeting was set up in a telephone conversation between the ministers late Saturday.

In Bogota, Bermudez said the meeting is part of "discrete" negotiations being facilitated by the Georgia-based Carter Center and the Organization of American States.

Ecuador's foreign minister warned against hopes for an immediate breakthrough.

"We should be cautious at this moment," Falconi told reporters. "We are going to start a dialogue, but the two societies, the two peoples, should understand that we are not going to immediately re-establish diplomatic relations."

This is the first time the two countries have fixed a firm date to talk about re-establishing diplomatic relations.

Ecuador severed relations on March 3, 2008, two days after Colombia's attack on a base set up in Ecuadorean territory by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which has been seeking to overthrow governments in Bogota for 45 years.

The raid killed the FARC's foreign minister, Raul Reyes, and 24 other people, and launched a war of accusations between the countries.

Ecuador's government denounced the military strike as a violation of its sovereignty, while Colombia said the raid was necessary because leftist rebels were taking refuge inside Ecuador.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused some Ecuadorean officials of having ties with the FARC and in July a video was released showing a guerrilla commander talking about giving money to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's election campaign. Correa denies the accusation.

Ecuador's government asked for an international arrest warrant for Colombian Foreign Minister Juan Manuel Santos for ordering the raid. The request was denied but relations remained tense.

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