Venezuela's newly appointed foreign minister, Elias Jaua, met the top diplomat of Colombia today after vowing to continue backing peace talks between the Colombian government and leftist rebels.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been a key supporter of the talks in Havana and Jaua, who took over his post three days ago, told Colombia's Blu Radio on Thursday that policy would continue.
The meeting with Colombia's Maria Angela Holguin comes at a moment when the talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have resumed after a holiday break.
'One of President Chavez's big bets throughout these 14 years has been to bet on peace in Colombia.' —Elias Jaua, Venezuelan foreign minister
Chavez remained out of sight in Cuba more than five weeks after undergoing cancer surgery, though Jaua said there would be no shift in policy.
"One of President Chavez's big bets throughout these 14 years [of his presidency] has been to bet on peace in Colombia," Jaua said in the radio interview. "Of course, we're going to continue supporting everything that the Colombian government requests of us to achieve the goal of peace."
In previous years, Colombian officials accused Chavez's government of providing refuge to rebel group known as the FARC, and the U.S. government has said some senior Venezuela military officials have provided the FARC with arms and helped it traffic in cocaine.
Chavez and his government have denied those accusations, though the rebels have expressed affinity with the socialist leader's ideals.
Building friendly ties
Since Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos took office in 2010, he has built friendly ties with Chavez, ending the animosity between the two countries during the presidency of Santos' predecessor, Alvaro Uribe.
Delegates from Chile and Venezuela have been designated as facilitators for the talks between the rebels and Colombia's government, though their exact roles have not been explained.
Fernando Gerbasi, a former Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia, said Holguin's visit to Caracas had been scheduled weeks ago and said he didn't think her visit was related to the uncertain situation in Venezuela surrounding Chavez's condition. He said Colombia's foreign minister in particular wanted to make sure Venezuela will keep co-operating in the peace talks.
Vicente Torrijos, a political analyst at Rosario University in Bogota, said stability in Venezuela is crucial for Colombia so that Venezuela's government continues supporting the negotiations.