Venezuelan defense minister denies troops entered Colombia

Colombian soldiers arrive at the site where Venezuelan soldiers would have installed a camp in Colombian territory, in Arauquita, department of Arauca, Colombia, on March 23, 2017

Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez denied Saturday that troops from his country had intruded on Colombian territory.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday he had complained to his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro about the "totally unacceptable" move by Venezuelan troops who had camped out for more than 48 hours near the Colombian border town of Arauquita.

Colombia said the troops withdrew Thursday only after Bogota's energetic protests.

But Padrino insisted that his troops had never left Venezuelan soil.

"We are sure that the encampment, in the Los Pajaros sector, is in our territory," the general said in a video released by the Telesur network in Caracas.

A Venezuelan government statement said the incident was probably caused by a shifting of the course of the Arauca River, which marks the boundary between the countries.

"The riverbed is constantly changing as a result of flooding,"" said a statement read by Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez. This had led to previous "differences of interpretation," she added.

Rodriguez, without admitting to any error, said the issue would be taken up by "technical diplomatic teams."

Padrino, too, avoided any mention of a troop "withdrawal," saying only that soldiers had been moved "more to the interior of our territory to facilitate political dialogue" and to "clarify what are the correct and historical boundaries."

The two countries began reopening in August border crossings closed a year earlier after an armed attack on a Venezuelan military patrol that left three soldiers wounded.

That attack was blamed on Colombian paramilitaries, remnants of Colombia's long civil war.