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Cablegate: Colombia-Ecuador Ties Thawing

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C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003093

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/09/29
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KJUS PTER ETRD OAS CO EC
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA-ECUADOR TIES THAWING

REF: BOGOTA 3011

CLASSIFIED BY: Mark Wells, Political Counse...


id: 227458
date: 9/29/2009 15:02
refid: 09BOGOTA3093
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
destination: 09BOGOTA3011
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003093

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/09/29
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KJUS PTER ETRD OAS CO EC
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA-ECUADOR TIES THAWING

REF: BOGOTA 3011

CLASSIFIED BY: Mark Wells, Political Counselor; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

SUMMARY

-------

1. (C/NF) Colombia and Ecuador announced on September 24 that they
had begun the process of re-establishing diplomatic relations,
which Ecuador severed in March 2008 after a Colombian military raid
against a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp in
Ecuadorian territory. The two sides released an 11-point outline
of the terms of the process, beginning with the naming of Charges
d'Affaires in October. The communique also included a Colombian
pledge to refrain from military action inside Ecuador, an
Ecuadorian promise to crack down on illegal armed groups in its
territory, bilateral efforts to improve the situation of Colombian
refugees in Ecuador, and initiatives to increase communication and
coordination between authorities on both sides of the border. The
agreement deferred particularly thorny topics or set them up for
mediation through the Carter Center or Organization of American
States (OAS). Colombian officials credit Ecuadorian President
Rafael Correa's constructive attitude in recent Union of South
American Nations (UNASUR) meetings, likely motivated by the need to
diplomatically address a range of bilateral issues. Colombia
appears to be looking at the thaw as a way to drive a wedge between
Ecuador and Venezuela and improve commerce with Ecuador as trade
with Venezuela worsens, but it will take time for Colombia and
Ecuador to overcome remaining differences. End Summary.


RAPPROCHEMENT AFTER 18 MONTH BREAK

----------------------------------

2. (U) Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez and Ecuadorian
Foreign Minister Fander Falconi announced on September 24 that
their countries had begun the process of re-establishing diplomaticQelati
ons. (NOTE: Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Colombia
in March 2008 after a Colombian military strike against FARC
Commander Raul Reyes' camp just across the border in Ecuador. End
Note.) The ministers made the announcement in New York after what
Colombian press characterized as four days of intense negotiations
on the margins of the UN General Assembly. Bermudez also thanked
the Carter Center and the OAS for their ongoing help mediating
between the two sides.


11 POINT PLAN FOR WAY FORWARD

-----------------------------

3. (U) The GOC and the GOE released an 11-point communique
outlining the terms of the bilateral thaw. Among the most
important points were that Colombia pledged to refrain from
military or security operations in Ecuadorian territory, while
Ecuador promised it would not tolerate the presence of illegal
armed groups in its territory -- and further vowed to repel them
with force, if necessary. The two governments also proposed the
creation of mechanisms to improve conditions for Colombian refugees
living in Ecuador, with the GOC pledging to work with NGOs and
other governments to provide funds and services for them. (NOTE:
The GOE estimates that about 600,000 Colombians live in its
territory, 135,000 of which the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
thinks need international protection as refugees. End Note.) They
also announced the reactivation of the Binational Border Commission
and Neighbor Committees to improve coordination and communication
between the two countries' civilian, police, and military
authorities.


4. (U) In the 11 points, Colombia and Ecuador said ongoing legal
disputes between the two countries would not be part of this
initial dialogue. This was a clear reference to the international
arrest warrant an Ecuadorian judge issued in June for former
Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos in connection with
the 2008 raid, and to Ecuador's legal processes against Colombia at
the Hague over aerial fumigation. While the GOC explicitly noted
it does not recognize extraterritorial jurisdiction for Ecuador to
prosecute current or past GOC officials, the GOE said it would
respect the independence of its judicial authorities. Both
governments asked for further mediation from the Carter Center and
the OAS on particularly sensitive topics, including security, crime
control (e.g., narcotrafficking and violent crime) and economic
development in the border area.


GOC SEES STRATEGIC ADVANTAGE,

GOE SEEKS PROGRESS ON ISSUES

-----------------------------

5. (C/NF) Bermudez and Defense Minister Silva told us they had seen
an opening with Ecuador during the recent UNASUR summit, and they
hoped to drive a wedge between Ecuador and Venezuela (reftel).
Ambassador Carlos Morales, MFA Acting Director for Latin America
and the Caribbean, told Poloff on September 28 that Colombia hopes
to reinvigorate commercial flows with Ecuador to partly offset
trade woes with Venezuela.

6. (C) Morales opined that the GOE's change in attitude was forced
by Ecuador's need to address diplomatically a range of issues,
including trade, refugees, narcotics, and crime. He credited
President Correa's sudden constructive attitude as chair of recent
UNASUR meetings, the GOC's decision to participate at high levels
in both the UNASUR Bariloche summit and Quito ministerial,
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's repeated apologies (most
recently at the Bariloche summit) for the cross-border raid, and
mediation by the Carter Center for the warming of relations. The
ball was set in motion when two countries' foreign ministers met
quietly a few months ago at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Morales
said.

WAY AHEAD NOT ENTIRELY CLEAR

----------------------------

7. (C/NF) Bermudez explained that both governments planned to have
working groups initiate a process of direct dialogue by
mid-October, with the goal of re-establishing full diplomatic
relations as quickly as possible. However, Colombian Vice Minister
of Defense Sergio Jaramillo told us he was not convinced the GOE
was entirely committed to the process. Moreover, it is unclear
whether the strategy of ignoring the Santos warrant will prevent it
from coming back to derail the rapprochement. Ambassador Morales
lamented Minister Silva's "unhelpful" declarations at a public
event on September 27 that full diplomatic relations cannot exist
if Ecuador insists on prosecuting Colombian officials and does not
fulfill its promise to combat transnational criminals.


8. (C) Morales said the Colombian MFA would get to work immediately
implementing the 11-point accord. At the top of the agenda are

selecting a Charge' to send to Quito, establishing bilateral
working groups to discuss remaining issues, and formalizing the
mechanisms for mediation through the Carter Center and OAS. The
naming of Charges would provide direct diplomatic channels,
replacing communication through the Argentine Embassy in Quito.
While the communique was the first major positive step in
re-establishing ties, Moreno opined that the number of pending
issues would delay the resumption of full ties beyond this year.

COMMENT: USG SUPPORT IN PLACE

-----------------------------
9. (C) As the verbal barrage and commercial threats from Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez continue, the GOC is eager to improve
relations with neighboring Ecuador. Embassy Bogota and Embassy
Quito's Northern Border Working Group carried out two days of
consultations in Bogota on September 24-25 to consider a range of
possible USG activities to support the 11 points (septel).

BROWNFIELD

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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