Chavez in France to Discuss Colombian Hostage Swap and Oil Deal

Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez arrived in Paris
on Monday to meet with his counterpart French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The
two leaders met to discuss joint projects in the energy sector as well as
Chavez' mediation for a humanitarian exchange in Colombia, to which the French government
gave their full support.

By Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis.com

chavez_sarkozy.jpg

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez meets with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Tuesday (Henry Tesara, ABN)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez meets with his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Tuesday (Henry Tesara, ABN)
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Mérida,

November 21, 2007

(venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez arrived in Paris
on Monday to meet with his counterpart French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The
two leaders met to discuss joint projects in the energy sector as well as
Chavez' mediation for a humanitarian exchange in Colombia, to which the French government
gave their full support. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, however, has placed
new conditions on the negotiations in recent days.

Upon his arrival in France Monday
night, Chavez announced his intention to discuss the possibility of an energy
agreement with the French company Total Oil and to come to an agreement with
the French president regarding the negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC).

The two leaders met for several
hours on Tuesday during which Sarkozy expressed his support of the mediation
efforts in the Colombian conflict and backed Chavez' efforts to achieve the
release of hostages in the hands of the FARC, among them the French-Colombian
citizen Ingrid Betancourt.

"We hope that France
will continue to help us, above all to smooth out the hard points on both
sides," said Chavez upon leaving the meeting. "We are sure that after
today, as President Sarkozy has ratified it with so much conviction, that we
can count on the firm support of the French."

Although Chavez did not deliver
any proof that Ingrid Betancourt is still alive, as he had previously promised,
he assured that he could achieve that goal by the end of the year. Chavez
reiterated the need for a meeting with FARC leader Manuel Marulanda and sent a
message to the Colombian president to permit such a meeting to happen.

"Uribe, my friend, let me
go see Marulanda. That is the key to achieving the liberation of all the
hostages," he said at a press conference in Paris.

Uribe, however, placed new
conditions on the negotiations with the FARC, and put a deadline on the
mediation efforts of Chavez. In a presidential statement released on Tuesday,
Uribe gave Chavez until the end of December to reach an agreement with the
guerrilla organization. He also ruled out a meeting with Marulanda unless the FARC
first releases some hostages.

"We can't let the FARC
take advantage of the humanitarian accords to affect what is finally going to
defeat the kidnapping, which is democratic security," said Uribe.
"That is why I ask the international community, President Chavez, those
who have generously worked as facilitators, and all my fellow countrymen to
understand the government decision to go until December 31st with the mediation
efforts."

But Chavez remained optimistic
during his visit in France,
emphasizing that President Uribe had accepted dialog with the FARC, and is
willing to hold negotiations in the conflict zone once the hostages are released.

"If Marulanda releases the
first group of hostages, I would go to Caguan to set up negotiations," he
said.

Chavez said that Uribe had
accepted a dialogue with the FARC only "when they are going to talk about
a peace agreement, much more than a humanitarian agreement."

Chavez thanked Sarkozy for the
invitation to visit him in France
and assured that Venezuela
and France
have begun a good relationship that will be very positive.

The two governments also made a
deal for the exploitation of Venezuelan oil in the Orinoco River Delta by the
French company Total Oil. With the intention of increasing oil production in Venezuela,
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez stated that the Venezuelan government has nothing
against foreign investment, as long as it follows the national laws. The
agreement would increase daily production by 400 thousands barrels, and
increase French investment in Venezuela.

Ramirez expressed the
"need for a lot of investment" in Venezuela,
and said that France
could become the number one foreign investor in the country.

"We don't have anything
against private investment and once firms like Total can adapt to our
legislation everything flows without problems," he said.

The Venezuelan ambassador to France indicated that many other
projects are in the works as well, mostly in the agricultural sector, to take advantage
of French investment and technology.