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US Urges Peaceful End to Colombia-Ecuador Dispute

By David Gollust
State Department
04 March 2008

The United States Tuesday urged a diplomatic resolution of the dispute between Colombia and Ecuador through the Organization of American States (OAS). Ecuador and Venezuela have cut diplomatic ties with Colombia after its forces attacked FARC rebels inside Ecuador. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Despite the angry rhetoric being exchanged by the parties, U.S. officials are downplaying the threat of war over the Colombian incursion into Ecuador and are expressing confidence the matter can be resolved peacefully.

Colombian troops killed a key leader of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, along with other members of the rebel group in an attack just inside Ecuador on Saturday.

Ecuador severed diplomatic relations with Colombia over the incident, as did the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez, who has had an increasingly difficult relationship with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Bilateral ties have been further strained by Colombian charges that its troops, during Saturday's raid, found evidence of large-scale Venezuelan aid to the FARC.

In a talk with reporters, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey stressed U.S. support for Colombia in its long conflict with the FARC and said the issue of FARC activities outside of Colombia needs to be addressed.

Casey said the OAS is a proper venue for resolving the dispute. He declined specific comment on the Colombian charges of Venezuelan backing for the FARC, but said any such involvement would be unfortunate.

"We would hope that everyone would work with the government of Colombia to put an end to the threat posed by the FARC," he said. "It's a terrorist organization. It's been making the lives of the Colombian people miserable for more than 20 years. It certainly would be very unfortunate if any other countries were actively aiding or supporting a group that is responsible for kidnapping, killings, participation in drug trafficking and all the other kinds of things the FARC's engaged in."

Casey said the issue is serious, but that there is not a sense in Washington that it will flare into open hostilities, even though both Ecuador and Venezuela have said they have ordered troops to their borders with Colombia.

Colombia's government has apologized for the raid but said it was a necessary part of its struggle with the FARC. The raid killed Raul Reyes, a senior leader and spokesman for the rebel group.

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