In what can be regarded as an advance in relations between the United States (US) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a letter on January 19 to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, revealed that the American government was ready to hold dialogue on security issues with the continental bloc. Correa currently holds the rotating presidency of the organization.
Clinton's letter responded to an invitation Correa sent to the American government last December to discuss these matters with UNASUR which, at its August 2009 summit in Quito, had requested an exchange of views to obtain first hand information on the existing US-Colombia military pact.
Correa's letter urged the United States to discuss questions related to this cooperation agreement that allows the presence of US troops in seven Colombian military bases -- a situation which has generated much concern, particularly from the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. It is UNASUR's view that guarantees given by the Colombian government on not using the seven US military bases in Colombia against any regional country also requires a US commitment.
In her response, Clinton expressed "interest in getting close to the organization," adding that "structured and prepared dialogues could increase mutual agreement and identify areas to boost the ties between the United States and the UNASUR member countries." She agreed to participate in the dialogue on strategic issues, mainly defence and security-related matters, which "may increase mutual understanding, as well as contribute to identify areas of potential cooperation."
The United States has since requested the South American bloc to provide a list of topics to facilitate coordination of the meeting and to develop a joint agenda.
The American reply was warmly received by Correa who said that the proposed meeting -- a date for which has not yet been identified -- will aim at "mending fences" and bringing the "two neighboring regions" closer together. He explained: "The use of bases in Colombia through the US military should be discussed at the dialogue between UNASUR and the US government because it is an action that represents a source of destabilization in the region."