Colombia and Venezuela foreign ministers to meet

Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez said Tuesday that he is in the process of organizing a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro to discuss diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Bermudez told W Radio that the president of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez had proposed the meeting and offered his Caribbean island nation as the venue.

The Dominican Republic is part of the “group of friend countries” that formed following a verbal clash between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez at the Rio Summit in Mexico last week.

The group of friends plan to mediate between the feuding neighbors.

Chavez expressed his desire for Venezuela to normalize relations with Colombia. He invited Uribe to “sit down and talk like gentlemen,” an invitation that Bermudez accepted.

Diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela were frozen after Colombia signed an agreement last year with the U.S. that allows the Americans to use Colombian military bases and civilian airports for counternarcotics and counterterrorism missions.

Chavez believes the agreement undermines sovereignty in the region, and is its most outspoken opponent.

The border region has long been a source of tension between the countries, as Venezuela accuses Colombia of allowing right-wing paramilitary fighters to enter Venezuelan territory, while Colombia says the border is often crossed by left-wing guerrillas seeking refuge in the neighboring country.

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