Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said Monday that he expects ties with neighbor Venezuela to be restored fully by the end of the year.
Santos said he was “optimistic” about the progress made by the countries’ ministers and bilateral committees in charge of the restoration of normal relations. Ties between the countries were cut after Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe clashed with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez about Venezuela’s alleged negligence in fighting the presence of guerrilla groups on its territory.
“Hopefully nobody will interfere to see if we can fight again, because that’s not our intention. To the contrary, what we want is to improve our relation with Venezuela even more,” Santos said at a business summit in the coastal city of Cartagena.
According to Santos, the communities living in the border region are those who benefit most from Colombia’s improved relations with Venezuela and southern neighbor Ecuador.
“If we show respect, those who will benefit are the people, because we will be able to reestablish trade. Both Venezuela and Colombia will benefit because together we will be able to integrate efforts in regards to infrastructure and security. We are already working together and President Chavez explicitly said he will not allow the presence of the FARC on his territory,” said the Colombian head of state.
Santos and Chavez are expected to meet within a month, for the second time since Santos’ inauguration in August.