Brazil's Lula seeks to soothe Venezuela-Colombia crisis

BRASILIA, July 28, 2010 (AFP) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced plans Wednesday to embark on shuttle diplomacy in a bid to resolve a diplomatic crisis between antagonistic neighbors Venezuela and Colombia.

Lula told reporters he was to travel to Caracas and Bogota on August 6 to speak with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and president-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who takes office the next day.

"We have an interest in (regional bloc) Unasur to build peace. I believe we have to restore normalcy in the ties between Venezuela and Colombia because they are to important countries in South America," Lula said.

Chavez and Uribe are embroiled in a nasty spat over Colombian claims this month that Venezuela was harboring 1,500 Colombian guerrillas on its soil.

Chavez last week cut diplomatic relations with Colombia, denying the accusation and accusing Bogota of plotting to attack his country with US help.

The issue is to be laid out at a Unasur meeting in Ecuador on Thursday.

Chavez and other Venezuelan officials have held out the possibility of restoring ties with Colombia if Santos proves more conciliatory than Uribe.

"If the new Colombian government fully rectifies (its position) and adopts a posture of absolute respect for Venezuela's government and out country, we are sure we can build a new path," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday as he conducted a South American tour to drum up support. 
 

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