Speaking Tuesday at a Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) conference in Argentina, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that he is “ready to turn the page” in his relationship with Colombia, which has been sour for months, reports El Espectador.
Chavez’s remarks came during a speech delivered to other South American leaders, in which he pressed the region to not “feed more into small conflicts,” and for each member country to put aside their “ideological positions,” in order for the budding regional bloc to move forward “in cooperative financial and political projects.”
The socialist president went on to say that “Venezuela only asks for respect,” and “not to be trampled on.”
The statements from Chavez come a few days after he blamed Colombia for his country’s soaring crime rates.
Last week, Chavez said that he wants to repair strained relations with Colombia, proclaiming that he hopes a breakthrough will be possible regardless of which candidate wins the neighboring country’s presidential election on May 30.
But the socialist Chavez, who has been fiercely critical of Colombia’s outgoing conservative president, Alvaro Uribe, added that any effort to end the diplomatic conflict won’t be possible unless Colombia’s next leader fully respects Venezuela’s government.
Relations between Venezuela and Colombia have been rocky for years, but frictions worsened in recent months over Colombia’s agreement to give the U.S. increased access to its military bases – a deal that Chavez calls a threat to Venezuela.
Colombia, meanwhile, alleges that Chavez’s government has allowed Colombian rebels to take refuge inside Venezuela. Chavez has repeatedly rejected the accusations.
UNASUR is an European Union modelled, inter-governmental organization, that merges two existing customs unions: Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations, as part of a continuing process of South American integration.