Venezuela asks UN to facilitate communication with Colombia over deadly border conflict

COLOMBIA (REUTERS) – Venezuela will ask the United Nations to help establish communication with Colombia about a conflict on the countries’ southern borders where there have been clashes in recent weeks between the Venezuelan armed forces and armed groups.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has said it is battling “irregular” Colombian groups in the state of Apure, where eight soldiers have been killed and thousands of civilians displaced.

Colombia has said Maduro’s government is entangled in disputes between different groups of former Farc guerrillas that are now in Venezuela, attacking some groups of fighters while collaborating with others to traffic drugs. Maduro denies this.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the country would submit a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to help broker talks between the two countries.

The letter would ask him “to establish a direct and permanent communication channel between the competent authorities to resolve all issues related to the border and to ensure that both nations coexist in peace as good neighbours,”Arreaza said in a televised broadcast.

The United Nations and Colombia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Monday, Venezuela announced it would deploy a special temporary military unit, called an Integrated Operational Defence Zone, or Zodi, that would operate in Apure state, which has been the centre of the clashes.

At least 5,000 inhabitants of the town of La Victoria have fled over the border to Arauquita, in the Colombian department of Arauca, according to Colombian officials. Venezuela says only 3,500 people have been displaced.

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