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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ecuador cautious but willing to meet with Colombia

Colombia Reports, September 21, 2009

Colombia news - Falconi and Bermudez

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Fander Falconi is approaching Tuesday's meeting with his Colombian counterpart Jaime Bermudez with caution and "political will".

Delegates from Ecuador and Colombia will meet at the General Assembly of the United Nations to open dialogue that could lead to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

This meeting will mark the first official rapprochement between the two nations after the March 2008 break of diplomatic ties, due to the Colombian military incursion into Ecuadorian territory on a clandestine operation against a camp of the FARC rebel organization.

That attack was seen by Quito as a violation of its territorial sovereignty and to redress the grievance, requested that Colombia comply with certain minimum requirements, which Minister Falconi will put on the table at Tuesday's meeting.

Newspaper El Espectador reported that the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister remained cautious in his remarks before the meeting, but said that there is "political will of both parties" to meet the challenge of restoring normalcy. He will propose to Minister Bermudez that they build a "roadmap" and develop a "working method" to overcome differences, which would also consider the involvement of an international mediator.

"We are starting a process that, obviously, has to be conducted in the best way [possible], in order to achieve what our people want, which is a will for peace and a desire for brotherhood, which has always existed between the two [nations]," Falconi said recently.

For Ecuador, the aim is that the encounter be "as fruitful as possible" and that dialogue is not "[straitjacketed]" by the issues that divide the two governments.

Requirements that Ecuador will expect Colombia to meet if they are to progress any further include Colombia's increased military presence to control its side of the border where guerrilla and paramilitary groups operate. The Quito government also wants Colombia to cease its alleged campaign to associate Ecuador with the FARC.

They will also asks Colombia to compensate the family of Ecuadorean Franklin Aisalla, who died in the March 2008 attack, and to provide resources to assist thousands of Colombians who have sought refuge in Ecuador, to escape the civil violence in their country.

Falconi will also ask that Colombia share any and all information regarding the military operation in Ecuadorian territory.

According to Falconi, now is not the time "to speculate whether Colombia will [be in] a certain position or not" to meet those requirements, but the important thing is that the two foreign ministers will "speak clearly."

This new phase of a thaw in relations started in mid-August, when Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, again apologized to Ecuador for the military incursion. His apologies were conditionally accepted by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, depending on Colombia's will and ability to fulfill the five requirements.

"We talked to resume relations, to reduce tensions between the two countries, which does not do anybody any good. I always said 'we're not going to fix this without justice and dignity,'" Correa said at the time.

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