Colombia to protest Venezuela claiming airspace violation

Columbia to protest Venezuela, seek explanation on two military jets in its airspace

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Colombia detected Venezuelan military airplanes in its territory on September, 12

The Colombian government plans to launch a formal protest against Venezuela after two military jets flew into its airspace without warning or permission on Saturday afternoon, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.

Colombia’s Defence Ministry said on Sunday that the jets entered the La Guajira province in northern Colombia without permission on Saturday morning. They flew nearly 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) over the border and then circled over a military base.

"I have ordered the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry to present a formal protest tomorrow to Venezuela for violation of our airspace," Santos said on Twitter.

Colombian officials said they would ask Venezuela for an explanation.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said that there was no evidence on why Venezuela violated Colombia's airspace.

"There is no evidence of the alleged airspace violation of our neighboring country, beyond an invention to prevent a presidential meeting," Rodriguez wrote on Twitter.

"We are concerned about the trend in the Colombian government of inventing incidents that do not exist in order to affect relations."

The incident came at a time of high tension between the two countries. Colombia and Venezuela have been in a spiraling row since President Nicolas Maduro closed part of their shared border on Aug. 19, blaming Colombian paramilitaries for an attack on Venezuela's anti-smuggling patrol.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro closed parts of its border and deported some 1,500 Colombian citizens living in Venezuela.

More than 18,500 others have fled in fear since the crisis began, according to United Nations. Colombians were forced to leave their homes in border towns and cross rivers and bridges with their belongings on their backs.

The Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, recalled his country's ambassador to Venezuela on Aug. 27. The move came as a response to Venezuela closing two major border crossings and deporting over a thousand Colombians. Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro, responded by also recalling Venezuela’s ambassador to Colombia later in the same day.

Maduro accused Colombia of waging an "attack on Venezuela's economy," a reference to the rampant smuggling of heavily subsidized goods out of the oil-rich, but shortage-hit socialist country.

The foreign ministers of Venezuela and Colombia met in Ecuador on Saturday in an attempt to ease tension and resolve their differences.

The ministers made "satisfactory advances" in dealing with the "sensitive issues," and will consult with their respective leaders over plans for a presidential meeting, said a final joint statement, read by Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.

TRTWorld and agencies