Venezuela and Colombia agree to mend strained relations

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Juan Manuel Santos (left) and Nicolas Maduro (right)Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Juan Manuel Santos (left) and Nicolas Maduro (right) agreed to work together to address drug trafficking and other cross-border issues

The presidents of Colombia and Venezuela have agreed to work to improve relations, two months after a row erupted between the two neighbours.

Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro met for talks at a border town in Venezuela.

They agreed to set up high level groups to discuss security, energy and trade.

Relations had been strained since Mr Santos agreed in May to meet Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles in Bogota.

Mr Capriles had been seeking Colombian support for contesting his defeat by a narrow margin to Mr Maduro at Venezuela's election in April.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said at the time that the meeting would "derail" good relations between the two countries.

Venezuela had threatened to stop acting as a facilitator in peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

'Obligation and responsibility'

But at the meeting on Monday, Mr Maduro said Colombia could count on the full support of his government in the talks, which are taking place in Cuba.

"We are at your orders to contribute, even modestly, so Colombia can celebrate peace sooner than later," Mr Maduro told his counterpart after the meeting in Puerto Ayacucho, capital of Venezuela's Amazonas province.

The two presidents were smiling and looked relaxed, said the BBC's Arturo Wallace in Bogota.

"There are issues we agree with, we have different views on many things but we have a huge obligation and responsibility of working together. And that is what we are going to do," said Mr Santos.

"We are keen to make up for lost time," said the Colombian president.

Relations between the two countries were extremely difficult when Alvaro Uribe was in power in Colombia.

The conservative leader disliked the policies of the late leader, Hugo Chavez, and accused Venezuela of harbouring left-wing rebels from the Farc and the ELN in its territory.

Diplomatic relations were broken in July 2010, but restored months later when Juan Manuel Santos was elected to succeed Mr Uribe.