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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ecuador calls off dialogue until after Colombian elections, April 21 2010

ricardo patino

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said Tuesday that his nation will not engage in any more dialogue to normalize relations with Colombia until after the latter's upcoming May presidential elections.

Patiño said that Ecuador found presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos' comment that he was "proud" of the Colombian army's 2008 bombing of a FARC camp on Ecuadorean territory "unacceptable."

"It is unacceptable that a presidential candidate is taking advantage of this electoral process to reinforce arguements condemned by the international community, to say that he would again attack the FARC, wherever they were," said Patiño.

"We deeply regret that a process of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as desired by our two peoples, could be affected by these statements," Patiño added.

The foreign minister said that Santos' comments were very serious from the point of view of resuming relations, because "they suggest to us that if he were to be elected president, members of the FARC may enter our territory again and we could be bombed again."

Patiño said that the principles of international law were not like a shirt that could be put on at the wearer's whim, but had to be respected.

"Respect for state sovereignty is a principle of international law that is unacceptable to violate, in order to make the most of an election campaign," Patiño said.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Tuesday warned Colombia against a repeat of the 2008 attack, saying that his country's military is "prepared" to respond to such an event.

The international ruckus comes after Santos said during a live presidential debate Sunday, that he was "proud" of his decision as defense minister to authorize the attack and that he has "left open the possibility" of a repeat attack.

Santos backed down on Tuesday and said he wouldn't authorize another such attack. His about-face followed a statement released by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez calling him a "threat to the region."

Colombia's 2008 bombing of the FARC camp on Ecuadorean soil, in which FARC leader "Raul Reyes" was killed, led to the freezing of diplomatic relations between the neighboring Andean nations, with Ecuador claiming that Colombia had undermined its sovereignty.

The two nations began to work at restoring severed ties in September last year.

A "Commission on Sensitive Subjects" was formed at at a heads of states' meeting in Mexico in February, with the intention of addressing contentious issues between the two countries.

Ecuador has said that the restoration of diplomatic relations with Colombia is dependent on Colombian authorities providing more information on allegations of FARC activity within Ecuador's borders, as well as handing over Raul Reyes' hard drives and other evidence allegedly found during the 2008 raid.

Colombia said that handing over the hard drives belonging to slain FARC leader is not possible, because the prosecutor general is using them as evidence.

Ecuador has filed charges against Santos for his role in the incursion.

Colombia's presidential elections are scheduled for May 30.

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