Ecuadorean Vice Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas Monday stressed the “important symbolic role” of the meeting scheduled between Colombia’s and Ecuador’s foreign ministers in the Colombian border town of Ipiales on Thursday.
The meeting between Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin and Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño will be the second official encounter between the two since Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took office on August 7, but the first at which the two nations will sit down to address ongoing bilateral concerns.
“On the part of Colombia we have seen willingness, willingness expressed by President Santos to hand over the supposed hard discs from the supposed computers of [deceased FARC leader] Raul Reyes,” Lucas said.
Ecuador broke ties with Colombia in March 2008, following the Colombian army’s bombardment of a FARC camp on Ecuadorean soil. Ecuador viewed the raid, in which Raul Reyes was killed, as undermining its sovereignty. Colombia alleged that files reportedly retrieved from Raul Reyes’ computer are evidence of the Ecuadorean government’s links with the FARC. Colombia’s handing over of these files to Ecuador has been a sticking point in the re-establishment of ties between the neighbor nations.
Following his inauguration, Santos ordered that the files be handed over to Ecuador, something which the former government of Colombia President Alvaro Uribe had refused to do.
Lucas said that while his government doesn’t believe that the files will reveal any evidence, Santos’ decision to provide them to Ecuador “shows a political will of this government that the previous government didn’t have,” which he think will “help a lot in the full normalization of relations with Colombia.”
“This meeting will be the kick start to move relations between the two countries forward,” Lucas said.
The vice foreign minister stressed that Thursday’s upcoming meeting will not address “sensitive issues” per se but rather the development of a geothermal energy project, social development at the countries’ common border and concerns over Colombian refugees in Ecuador will be on the agenda.
Efforts to restore relations began in 2009 and trade ties have been strengthened, but the countries are yet to name their respective ambassadors to completely formalize relations.