BOGOTA (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will withdraw troops from Colombia’s side of the two countries’ border, after his soldiers set up camp in the neighboring country, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday.
Santos, speaking on television, said the incursion of about 70 Venezuelan soldiers into the Colombian border province of Arauca was “totally unacceptable.”
“I have just spoken with President Maduro,” Santos said. “He has assured me he has ordered the withdrawal of troops from Colombian territory.”
The neighbors would work together through diplomacy until the situation on the border normalizes, Santos said, adding that he was informed of the incursion on Wednesday.
Later, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez said that the incursion was due to the Arauca River changing its channel, given the rain.
“In this area, the river’s route changes with the flooding of the river,” said Rodriguez, adding that diplomats from the two countries would soon meet.
Relations between the South American neighbors have been tense for years. Venezuela has closed the border several times in a crackdown on smugglers. In 2015, it deported hundreds of Colombians it accused of criminal activities.
(Reporting by Bogota newsroom; Additional reporting by Girish Gupta in Caracas; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)