Defense issues not priority for Russia-Colombia talks in Moscow

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MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti) - Military and defense cooperation will not be top of the agenda during a visit to Russia by Colombia's vice president, contrary to Russian media reports, the country's ambassador to Moscow said on Tuesday.

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos will visit Russia on June 1-10.

"Military cooperation between Russia and Colombia will be discussed only as one out of a range of issues in Russian-Colombian relations," Diego Tobon said.

Earlier in the day, the Kommersant business daily reported that Colombia was seeking to expand military and defense ties with Russia in an apparent attempt to counter the growing military might of neighboring Venezuela.

In the last three years, Venezuela has bought 24 Su-30MK2V fighters, Tor-M1 air defense systems, 31 Mi-type helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia. It is also planning to conclude several contracts with Russia next month on the purchase of military equipment worth at least $2 billion, including transport planes, submarines and attack helicopters.

"Such interpretation of Russian-Colombian and Colombian-Venezuelan relations offers a distorted picture," he said. "Colombia never wanted the diplomatic crisis that hit the region in March to grow into an international military confrontation," he went on.

The region was brought to the verge of an armed conflict in early March when U.S.-ally Colombia bombed a FARC rebel camp in Ecuador, killing 24 rebels. Venezuela and Ecuador then sent thousands of troops to the Colombian border, but a peace deal was soon reached.

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