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Venezuela's Chavez to meet new Colombian president

By the CNN Wire Staff
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, left, met Colombian counterpart, Maria Angela Holguin, on Sunday.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, left, met Colombian counterpart, Maria Angela Holguin, on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Colombia has accused Venezuela of protecting rebels in its territory
  • Venezuela denies allegations
  • Venezuela cut off diplomatic relations with Colombia last month
  • It marked the third time in three years
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and newly elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will meet Tuesday for talks to try to end a diplomatic dispute between the nations, according to Santos' website.

Venezuela last month broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia, after the latter claimed that rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known as FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) have camps in Venezuela.

Venezuela denies the allegations.

It was at least the third time in three years that relations between Venezuela and Colombia have been strained.

Chavez froze relations last year when Colombia signed a military agreement with the U.S. and in 2008 when Colombia conducted a raid against leftist guerrillas into Ecuadorian territory.

Santos was sworn in Saturday, vowing to unify his country around the goals of prosperity for all and of thwarting the nation's leftist rebels.

In an early test of Santos' diplomatic skills, his inauguration was attended by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro held talks with his Colombian counterpart, Maria Angela Holguin, on Sunday and said he wanted to deliver a positive message from Chavez.

"We would like to deliver -- that's what President Hugo Chavez specifically indicated -- a message of love and solidarity to all of the people of Colombia; a message for the future and for hope," Maduro said.

"We would like to reach out with our loving hand, of friendship and of fraternity to all of the people of Colombia."

Chavez also said on Saturday that he wanted to meet with Santos.

"I invited Santos to go to Caracas," Chavez said. "If he can't come, I'll go to Bogota."

"But I am telling you," Chavez said at another point in the speech, "the first disrespect to Venezuela, the first false accusation, and everything will be over."

Santos was elected president of Colombia in June with the highest vote total in his country's history, garnering more than 9 million ballots, roughly 70 percent of the electorate. He ran as a conservative promising to improve Colombia's security.

Tensions between the South American neighbors have affected cross-border trade, which was worth a record $7.3 billion in 2008 but has fallen since then, according to the Venezuela-Colombia Integration Chamber.