Venezuela, Colombia agree to gradually re-open border

Venezuela, Colombia agree to gradually re-open border

Caracas, Aug 12 (IANS) Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos have agreed to reopen the border gradually, but under no precise timeline.

The two met for several hours on Thursday in the southern Venezuelan state of Bolivar to discuss their common border, which has remained largely closed since August 19, 2015, Xinhua news agency reported.

At a joint press conference after the meeting, Maduro and Santos said they instructed their governments “to seek agreements…for a normal border”.

The two agreed that the border, which stretches over 2,000 km, would be re-opened but very gradually, first with a crossing for foot traffic, then for vehicles, and then for commercial exchanges but only at night. No precise timeline for the process was given.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin also met on Thursday to discuss the border issue.

“This is a zone of peace……We have had a good day of exchanges, sharing our visions and proposals. I thank President Santos for his good will and desire to move forward with our countries’ common themes,” Maduro said.

Santos, for his part, said: “The objective of this meeting was to find a way to normalise the border for the benefit of Venezuelans and Colombians.”

He said the two countries need to work together to solve their mutual problems, adding “we believe we have the conditions to have a far better border”.

Venezuela first closed its border with Colombia in August last year after three members of the armed forces were shot and injured while patrolling the area against smugglers.

Caracas temporarily opened the border on July 10, 16 and 17, allowing around 130,000 Venezuelans to cross into Colombia to buy needed food and medicine.

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