Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela crisis: XX Rio Group Summit (updated III).
Caracas, Venezuela, 7 Marh, 2008. Today the XX Summit of the Rio Group will take place in Dominican Republic. The Rio Group is a permanent mechanism of political consultation among Latin American and Caribbean States. It was founded in 1986 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after the fusion of Contadora Group (Mexico, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela) and the Support Group (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Peru). Initially, the Rio Group was devised during the Cold War era as an alternative body to the OAS. However, it has grown up to its own destiny in the region. Without a permanent Secretariat, the Rio Group works by yearly summits. During this XX Summit, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs accepted the incorporation of Haiti and Guyana as full and individual members. The Rio Group now has 20 State members: Argentina, Belice, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guayana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.
During the Summit today, the current crisis in the Americas will be analysed. Presidents of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Nicaragua will be attending the Summit. Thus, there is much expectation over the outcome of the Summit. Brazil President, Lula Da Silva will not be in the Summit this time. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe arrived at Santo Domingo last night. Uribe met President Leonel Fernandez but refused to comment publicly on the current crisis with Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Upon his arrival last night, President Chavez stated International Community should take a deep look into the Colombian internal conflict. Chavez also denied any involvement in the financing of guerrilla groups in the region. He advocated for a peace and a political process that would turn FARC into a political party.
AMERICAS CRISIS DURING THE SUMMIT: Attending a request of Ecuadorian Head of State, Rafael Correa and due to the exceptional moment in regional history, hostage of the Summit and President of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez agreed to start discussions on the Colombian incursion at once.
During the Summit, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe acknowledged his military forces launched an attack to Ecuadorian territory but within its side of their common frontier. He justified the attack on the fact that FARC and its No 2 leader, Raul Reyes, were terrorists. Uribe said his government did not warn Ecuador before launching the air attack because previous attempts to operatives against Raul Reyes had failed. Colombian President acknowledged it then entered Ecuadorian territory with helicopters to visit the attacked FARC camp and offered apologies for doing so. Uribe made a long description on the contents of FARC computers his army found during their operation in Ecuador. Then, he informed the document confiscated would be made available to international bodies and Ecuadorian Presidency. Colombia stated it had no idea that Ecuador was helping negotiate the liberation of hostages. Colombian Head of State said FARC had financed Correa campaigns. Finally, President Uribe said his government was willing to offer apologies only if discussions did not only include territorial sovereignty of Ecuador but Colombian security. After a small spout of acrimonious exchanges in which Uribe lost his
temper and reminded Correa of his communist past. Correa rejected Uribe´s arguments and the suggestion he collaborated with FARC. Correa asked for the solution of the internal conflict in Colombia which affected all its neighbours. Ecuadorian President asked Uribe to stop its lies and fallacies. Ecuador asked Colombia to recognise the violation of its territory. This afternoon, Colombian President will hold bilateral meetings with other members of the Rio Group and the OAS Secretary General.
Earlier Presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela, Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez, stated they were ready to leave behind the current crisis if Colombia accepted its responsibility in the illegal incursion of Ecuadorian territory and accepted an international punishment for its action. Upon his arrival to Dominican Republic this morning, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega asked for an unmistakable condemnation of Colombia during the Rio Summit. The verbal exchange was followed by diplomatic solution. As President Uribe had made an explicit apology to Ecuador, the solution was coming. President Chavez stated his willingness to work with all other countries of the region towards the creation of conditions to bring peace in Colombia. The Venezuelan president informed of the recent reception of proof of life of ten FARC hostages. Then, Chavez who was accompanied by Yolanda Pulecio - mother of Ingrid Bethancourt, insisted on the need of a Humanitarian deal in Colombia. After committing themselves not to attack any other country and work towards peace, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela managed to resolve the regional diplomatic crisis. In a most symbolic gesture Uribe, Correa, Chavez and Ortega greeted and shook hands. The Final Declaration of the XX Summit of the Rio Group registered Colombian apology to Ecuador and Bogota commitment to never again repeat this kind of incident. All states also committed themselves to combat all threats posed by irregular groups or criminal organization. The wording of this resolution and the direct contact allowed to the Presidents involved shows the superiority of the Rio Group over the OAS to resolve such state differences and reach a compromise. After the successful conclusion of the Summit, Nicaragua resumed diplomatic relations with Colombia. For Aljazeera correspondent Lucia Newman this is a fragile peace. Colombia still has a civil conflict to resolve.
In a separate and related event, there was a minor confrontation between Colombian and Venezuelan frontier authorities. Then, information over the imminent release of Ingrid Betancourt had to be officially discarded as false. And a second member of the FARC secretariat, Jose Juvenal Velandia nicknamed Ivan Rios, was killed by his own chief of security three days ago in Colombia. It also emerged that five Mexican students were at the raided FARC camp. So far just one of them survived the Colombian attack. Venezuela resumed diplomatic relations with Colombia.
PS: On Saturday 8 March 2008 and during his weekly radio programme, President Correa stated Ecuador will take some time to resume diplomatic relations with Colombia. He said resumption will be done according to a time table and in coordination with Venezuela; Correa explained he accepted shaking hands with Uribe as a Head of State but personally remained disenchanted with the unacceptable violation of the Ecuadorian sovereignty. Ecuador President stated the situation of three injured women had to be resolved too. Finally and, after blaming American attepts to undermine negotiations at OAS during the current crisis, Correa advocated for a new regional organization without the US.
On the other hand, Colombia promised last night to stop pushing for a case against President Chavez at the ICC. President Uribe also promised Nicaragua to reach an agreement on the presence of Colombian ships in their common maritime frontier and San Andres Islands while both countries wait for the ICJ judgement. OAS will continue to perform its mandate and investigate in loco the circumstances surrounding the violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty. Then, a legal condemnation might follow. What took place yesterday at the XX Summit of the Rio Group was the renunciation of a violent or armed solution to the conflict. A legal solution within the regional sphere remains to be reached and negotiated. It is now in the hands of OAS. The OAS investigation commission headed by Secretary General Insulza tavelled to Ecuador today. It will be paying a visit to Colombia onTuesday.
President Alan Garcia of Peru and Venezuelan commentators have agreed that the conciliatory intervention of Hugo Chavez had an important role in diffusing tension and reaching an amicable atmosphere during the Summit. President Chavez along with Mrs Yoland Pulecio, mother of Ingrid Betancourt, and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba travelled to Cuba. They were met by Raul Castro.
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