Spain Respects Colombia’s “Sovereign Decision” On U.S. Troops

By Dialogo
August 11, 2009

Spain's deputy prime minister said that Madrid respects Colombia's decision, "in the exercise of its sovereignty," to reach an accord with Washington on allowing U.S. troops to be stationed at bases in the Andean nation. Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega expressed that respect during a press conference at the presidential palace in Bogota after meeting with head of state Alvaro Uribe. She denied the Spanish government had changed its position on the matter after an initial statement about it by Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who said last week on a visit to Brazil that the pact could lead to a militarization of the region. Fernandez de la Vega said that Moratinos himself refined that statement in a subsequent telephone conversation with his Colombian counterpart. After receiving additional information from Uribe, she could say the Colombian government has taken a decision in the exercise of its sovereignty to do whatever gets results in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, and the Spanish administration respects that decision "because it couldn't be any other way." Asked whether Spain might mediate the hostility of countries like Venezuela and Ecuador for the pact between Colombia and the United States, she would only say that Spain will always work in favor of dialogue to seek a reconciliation of positions. Officials in the Spanish delegation said that Fernandez de la Vega told Uribe that the government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is willing to explore ways to help lower tensions by establishing contacts with governments in the region. Uribe appeared briefly with the deputy prime minister at the press conference, but made his exit before the questions started, leaving Vice President Francisco Santos to face reporters. Fernandez de la Vega took advantage of his appearance to confirm Spain's commitment to "walk side by side with Colombia and Uribe" to achieve an end to violence in this country. A position that she also conveyed to a group of representatives of organizations working in favor of peace with whom she met previously. Fernandez de la Vega and Santos were together in describing bilateral relations as extraordinary and saying that proof is the coming transfer to Afghanistan of a Colombian military unit under the command of the Spanish contingent in the Asian nation.