Colombia’s government is “working intensely” to ensure that the peace talks with rebel group FARC can continue, the government’s chief negotiator said on Friday in the wake of growing political tension between Colombia and Venezuela.
“Their [Venezuela’s] role in the peace talks has been very important and in truth we hope that this is not interrupted,” leading government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle said in an interview with national radio station Caracol on Friday.
De la Calle admitted he is “very concerned” about the implications the rift may have on the negotiations, after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday claimed the “betrayal” of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos‘ meeting with the country’s opposition have led to “doubts whether we [Venezuela] should continue” supporting the peace talks in Havana, Cuba.
The government negotiator confirmed the gravity of the situation, explaining that the government is working from capital Bogota “through diplomatic channels” to ensure that the peace negotiations will be able to be resumed on the June 11. “We sincerely hope that we can still count on Venezuela at the negotiating table in Havana” he said.
The scandal resulting from the visit of opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Maduro government, is the first blemish on Colombia’s relationship with neighboring Venezuela since Santos took office in August 2010 and made the improvement of the relationship between the two countries a top priority. Before Santos assumed power, Venezuela had frozen relations in 2010 over accusations by former President Alvaro Uribe, who accused the then-Chavez administration of aiding the FARC.
Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana moved on Friday to play down the significance of Venezuela’s new stance, saying that “nothing will change” if Venezuela were to withdraw from its role in the discussions, due to the presence of “other countries” such as Norway who remain as facilitators to the peace.
According to Pastrana, Santos “knew what the reaction would be” to his meeting with Capriles, and claimed the move was a declaration of the sovereignty of the Colombian state. “The Colombian president can meet with who he wants, where he wants,” adding that “the Venezuelan president can’t place any conditions on the head of Colombia.”
Venezuela played a key role in successfully bringing the FARC to negotiations with the Colombian government and Maduro declared in March that he and Venezuela were “fully committed” to the peace process.
However, since news broke about Capriles’ visit to the Colombian head of state, the relationship has turned sour, with Maduro accusing the Santos administration of conspiring with the Venezuelan opposition to reject “the legitimate government of Venezuela and to topple the revolutionary government I represent.”
- Papel de Venezuela ha sido muy útil y esperamos que no se interrumpa: De la Calle (Caracol)
- Tensión con Venezuela es ‘muy preocupante’: Humberto de la Calle (El Tiempo)
- “Si Venezuela se retira del proceso de paz, no pasa nada”: Pastrana (El Espectador)