SANTA MARTA, Colombia — The presidents of Colombia and Venezuela agreed Tuesday to restore diplomatic relations severed nearly three weeks ago by Caracas, smoothing over a dispute over allegations Colombian rebels have camps in Venezuela.
The rapprochement came during a four-hour meeting between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombia's new leader, Juan Manuel Santos, both of whom said they are starting to rebuild confidence shattered during years of quarreling.
"We have decided that the two countries will re-establish diplomatic relations," Santos told reporters after the meeting in Santa Marta on Colombia's Caribbean coast. "President Chavez has said ... that he is not going to allow the presence of outlaw groups in his territory."
Chavez said the countries are starting down a new road after years of often prickly relations under Santos' predecessor, Alvaro Uribe. Uribe's administration accused Chavez's socialist-oriented government of aiding the rebels and turning a blind eye to rebel leaders and guerrilla camps in Venezuelan territory.
Chavez reiterated that he doesn't support the Colombian rebels or any other insurgent group.
"I've said it a million times: The Venezuelan government that I lead neither supports nor allows, nor will permit, the presence of guerrillas, or terrorism or drug trafficking," Chavez said.