Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro agreed on Monday to re-open their embassies in an attempt to ease tensions over an ongoing border crisis.
The two heads of state met in the Ecuadorean capital Quito for the first time after a month of tensions.
Following the shooting of three Venezuelan soldiers near the border with Colombia, Maduro decided to close the main border crossing and deported more than a 1,000 Colombians within days.
While many of the deported Colombians were illegal in the neighboring country, Venezuelan authorities had also deported people who had been granted refugee, having fled Colombia’s 51-year-long war.
The sudden move spurred an exodus of Colombians citing fears of abuse for their return. Since August 19, more than 20,000 Colombians remigrated and are mainly kept in shelters along the border.
According to the United Nations, the mass migration spurred a “critical humanitarian situation” in Colombia, that is already dealing with more than 6.4 million internally displaced citizens.
The bilateral move from Caracas infuriated Colombians and spurred both countries’governments to recall their ambassador, after which Maduro proceeded to close even more border crossings, and going as far as claiming Colombians were involved in a plot to assassinate him.
Maduro accused Colombia’s center-right government of destabilizing Venezuela’s economy and politics, while Santos told his counterpart that the socialist “revolution” of Venezuela had failed and was the cause of the country’s unstable political situation and deteriorating economy.
Following their first encounter amid this heated diplomatic and humanitarian crisis, Santos and Maduro “committed themselves to formulate a deal that will solve the problems at the joint border, focusing on brotherly coexistence, mutual respect, and the social and economic development,” Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa read from a joint statement after the meeting.
Both presidents also vowed to allow the return of their ambassadors and create bilateral committees to address the border situation, said Correa.
However, Venezuela did not announce to reopen the border nor was there a mention of the humanitarian crisis.
Neither Santos nor Maduro immediately commented on the agreement and only appeared in public with Correa and Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez between them.