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Colombia border conflict resolved – on the surface

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(Read caption) Crisis averted: Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe (l.), shakes hands with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as Dominican Republic's President Leonel Fernandez looks on during the Rio Group Summit in Santo Domingo on March 7.

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South America's simmering regional conflict has de-esclated as leaders toned down rhetoric and Colombia and Venezuela restored diplomatic ties.

Over the weekend, Venezuela reopened its Colombian embassy in a move that – perhaps superficially – reconciled a border dispute, reports the International Herald Tribune.

Colombia, a close US ally, and Venezuela, a rival of Washington, have been locked in a bitter dispute since March 1, when Colombian troops attacked a training camp inside Ecuador suspected to be used by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian guerrilla group. Colombia claimed the strike was justified because it resulted in the death of a FARC leader. But President Hugo Chávez, who has sympathized with FARC rebels, viewed the strike as a violation of Ecuadorean sovereignty, the Associated Press reports.

Tensions flared when Venezuela expelled the Colombian ambassador and moved troops to the border with Colombia, Reuters reported.

At issue was more than just the cross-border raid, Time reports.

The possible regional conflict was diffused at a summit in the Dominican Republic on Friday, reports the Financial Times. That summit also provided evidence that the tensions would likely resurface.

Despite the reconciliation, the ties appear to be fragile, Reuters reports.

The Associated Press adds that restored diplomatic relations do not spell an end to the conflict.

Even as the dispute appeared to settle down, Colombia released documents that it claims show that Venezuela's and Ecuador's leaders conspired with the FARC over a period of months, reports the Associated Press, citing a report in the Spanish language news magazine Semana. Both countries have questioned the legitimacy of the documents.

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Locals in Ecuador say FARC rebels frequently set up camps in the thick jungle that covers the area, reports The Christian Science Monitor. Residents of western Venezuelan said the government's pledge to crack down on groups terrorizing the border was not genuine, reports the McClatchy News Service reports.


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