Unasur (Union of South American Nations) chairman Nestor Kirchner confirmed Monday ongoing contacts at different levels to try and defuse the Colombia/Venezuela conflict.
Late in the evening Kirchner met with Colombian president-elect Juan Manuel Santos; on Tuesday Venezuelan Foreign Affairs minister Nicolas Maduro is expected in Buenos Aires and on Thursday he will be chairing a meeting of Unasur Foreign Affairs ministers to address the issue.
“We’re trying to establish a dialogue, very quietly, with great patience but with the strong will that Argentina and the rest of the region will always contribute to peace”, said Kirchner on receiving Colombian president-elect Santos on a regional tour before he takes office August 7.
Last Thursday Venezuela broke relations with Colombia following on Bogotá’s accusations at the Organization of American States that President Hugo Chavez ‘tolerates’, if not gives ample support in Venezuelan territory to members of the Colombian guerrilla organizations, Farc and ELN.
Colombia says that a total of 1.500 guerrillas are using Venezuelan territory and several leaders live in that country.
However Chavez said it was all a make up by outgoing president Alavaro Uribe and warned he had intelligence information indicating that Colombian with support from United States was planning an attack on Venezuela.
And he promised that if this happens, “I will cancel all oil and gas shipments to the US”.
US State Department spokesperson Virginia Staab denied any attack intentions on Venezuela and insisted “we want to keep our mutually beneficial energy relation”.
Venezuelan Chancellor Maduro who is scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Buenos Aires anticipated that Venezuela “has great confidence in the political and moral authority” of the former Argentine president.
Kirchner is scheduled to chair the Unasur meeting next Thursday in Ecuador, when it is hoped tension will have eased, following a series of non-official phone conversations between several Latinamerican leaders and the two presidents involved in the row.
Meantime Santos was received in Government House, Casa Rosada, by President Cristina Kirchner and Foreign Affairs minister, Hector Timerman. He arrived from Chile where he met President Sebastian Piñera and the leaders of the political parties with congressional representation.
The following week two other events with strong participation of presidents should also help to find a solution: the Mercosur summit in San Juan Argentina and the taking office ceremony August 7 of president elect Santos in Bogotá, putting an end to eight years of President Uribe, one of the most popular leaders Colombian has had in decades.
The Brazilian diplomacy on Sunday warned that the Colombia/Venezuela dispute tarnishes the image of South America as a continent free of conflicts. Next August 6, before joining his peers in Bogotá, President Lula da Silva is scheduled to visit Caracas and meet President Chavez.