Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Friday that he would be happy to try to mediate an end to Colombia’s long-running conflict with leftist rebels.
He also said in an interview with The Associated Press that he’d be pleased to attend the Aug. 7 inauguration of Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, though diplomatic ties have not been fully restored and he has not yet received a formal invitation.
Ecuador broke off relations with Colombia after its military crossed into Ecuador in March 2008 and attacked the jungle camp of top Colombian rebel leader Raul Reyes, killing him and 24 others in a pre-dawn raid.
An Ecuadorean judge last month issued an arrest warrant for Santos, who was Colombia’s defense minister at the time.
Santos won the presidency by a landslide last Sunday with 69 percent of the vote. He has called the arrest warrant absurd because it was the Colombian state, not him as an individual, that made the cross-border incursion. He merely authorized it as defense minister, he told the AP in an interview three days before his election.
Correa said he would welcome any role in trying to end Colombia’s half-century-old conflict.
“It destroys our soul, the civil war that’s been going on for so many decades, the absurd spilling of blood among brothers,” he said.
“If we can mediate, if we can serve as facilitators, count on us,” Correa added in the 15-minute interview, held on the sidelines of a meeting of the ALBA bloc of leftist Latin American and Caribbean nations attended by leaders including presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Colombian officials have presented documents from Reyes’ computer and seized rebel video that they say prove chummy relations between Correa and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Correa calls them fabricated and refused to discuss the issue with the AP.
Several hundred thousand Colombians displaced by the conflict live in Ecuador, which has also long served as a refuge for the FARC.
A harsh critic of what he considers interventionist U.S. policies in Latin America, Correa said he hopes to see a change and called U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit earlier this month a welcome sign.
He defended, meanwhile, the creation in recent years of regional organizations such as ALBA, the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas, and UNASUR, the nascent South America defense union, that exclude the United States.
“We need our own forum to deal with our problems, without the unbalancing presence of the United States,” Correa added. (Associated Press)