Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is calling for face-to-face talks with with Colombia’s newly sworn-in President Juan Manuel Santos to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Santos replaces Alvaro Uribe who fell out with Chavez after accusing Venezuela of harbouring left-wing Farc guerrillas.
Santos said: “One of my main goals as President will be to rebuild the relationships with Venezuela and Ecuador, to re-establish trust, diplomacy and prudence.”
In a speech at a rally broadcast live on TV a short time later Chavez said that reconciliation depended on Colombia.
“I’m willing to go to Colombia, to a meeting with the new Colombian president,” he said. “I have no problem. I love Colombia and it will be an honour to be on Colombian soil again with a message of brotherhood, of peace, of integration and of respect.”
Santos was defence minister in the right of centre business-friendly Uribe government and has pledged to maintain a hard-line in the fight against left-wing Farc rebels and drug-traffickers on Colombian territory.
The new president also indicated he was looking to rebuild relations with Ecuador which cuts ties with Bogata after the US trained Colombian military carried out a cross border bombing raid on a Farc camp in Ecuador.