'We need to lift relations' with Colombia - Venezuela President Maduro

FILE PHOTO: People cross the Simon Bolivar international bridge, which is open for humanitarian crossings, as Venezuela reopens its borders with Colombia after a nearly three-year closure due to political tensions, in Cucuta, Colombia October 7, 2021. REUTERS/Nathalia Angarita

CARACAS (Reuters) - After two years of mudslinging and ruptured ties, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday it was necessary to repair diplomatic relations with Colombia.

Maduro's statements came hours after Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez asked United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to pay attention to what Rodriguez called the Colombian government's policy of xenophobia and violence against Venezuelan migrants.

"We have to regularize, normalize, commercial, productive and economic relations," Maduro said in a live broadcast on state television. "We have to regularize consular relations, diplomatic relations."

The Venezuelan president, who on other occasions has shown the intention to reestablish relations with the neighboring country, referred to a letter from the Colombian Senate released by National Assembly head Jorge Rodriguez. It proposed creating binational commissions to re-establish trade between both countries.

Later, Colombian President Ivan Duque spoke in favor of reopening the border to facilitate access to goods and services for Venezuelans, but warned he would not recognize the Maduro government.

"What Colombia is not going to do is recognize a disgraceful, corrupt, drug trafficker dictatorship," Duque said earlier in a joint conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. "To recognize it would be surrendering the values ​​that our country has historically defended."

In response to Duque government's aiding the Venezuelan opposition's efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country, Maduro suspended diplomatic relations with Colombia in February 2019, giving Colombian officials a 24-hour deadline to leave.

Colombia and Venezuela share a porous 2,219-kilometer border. In September, Venezuela's vice president announced reopening the border to Colombia with the removal of containers from bridges, but the authorization has yet to be completed.

"We need to build relationships, respecting political life, ideas, the ideological baggage of those who govern over there and those of us who govern here," added Maduro.

Colombia and several other Western countries, including the United States, recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

Duque calls Maduro a "dictator," while the self-proclaimed socialist president has accused him of participating in plans to attack Venezuela and overthrow him.

(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Carlos Vargas; Writing by Sarah Kinosian)

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