BOGOTA: Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos dismissed as “preposterous" Friday Venezuelan charges that his government is backing a conspiracy to destabilize the leftist-ruled neighbor.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro leveled the charge late Thursday, angrily accusing the Colombian leader of stabbing Caracas in the back by meeting with Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
“It's preposterous to think that the Colombian government is aware of, or even worse, that it is supporting some kind of action to destabilize the government of Venezuela," Santos said.
“We would be the worst affected if Venezuela had some kind of problem. What we want is for things to go well for Venezuela," he said, speaking at a public event in Palmyra, Colombia.
Tensions have soared between the two countries since Santos welcomed Capriles to the presidential palace here on Wednesday.
A photograph of the two shaking hands got wide play in Venezuela, where Capriles and Maduro are locked in a bitter dispute over the outcome of April 14 presidential elections to replace the late Hugo Chavez.
Maduro was proclaimed the winner by a 1.5 percent margin, but Capriles has refused to concede, insisting that the election was stolen. His visit to Bogota was seen as part of an effort to get international support for his cause.
Venezuela reacted by recalling its representative to peace talks in Havana between the Colombian government and the country's largest guerrilla group, and announcing it was reviewing relations with Bogota.
Maduro late Thursday accused Santos of playing into the hands of a right-wing conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government.
“I doubt President Santos' sincerity when he sticks a dagger in Venezuela's back and allows himself to be used to clean the face of a conspiracy against Venezuela," he said.
Venezuela and Colombia had tense relations during much of Chavez's 14 years in power, but Santos has worked to improve them despite ideological differences with the leftist government in Caracas.
On Friday, he recalled an agreement he reached with Chavez in 2010 to restore relations.
“For the good of Venezuela, and for the good of Colombia, we can resolve any misunderstanding in a civilized manner, with prudence, through diplomatic channels," Santos said.
Earlier, Colombia's chief negotiator at the peace talks with the FARC acknowledged that Venezuela had played a positive role “and we do not want this to be interrupted."
“We want to certify that Venezuela has in fact been very useful, as has President (Nicolas) Maduro," Humberto de la Calle told Radio Caracol.
The first peace negotiations in a decade opened in November in Havana between the government and the rebel group. Currently in recess, they are set to resume June 11.
Separately Friday, a soldier was killed and three others wounded during a clash between FARC guerillas and government troops in southwestern Colombia, an army official told AFP.
A military official said the injured have been treated and are out of danger in the wake of the incident in the municipality of Caloto in the department of Cauca.