Kerry: U.S., Venezuela on Track to Better Ties

ANTIGUA, Guatemala (AP) -

The United States and Venezuela have agreed to begin a high-level dialogue with the aim of restoring ambassador-level relations and ending more than a decade of steadily deteriorating ties, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday.

On his first trip to Latin America since taking office and after meeting Venezuela’s foreign minister in the first cabinet-level discussion between the two nations in at least several years, Kerry said he was hopeful that a rapprochement could be achieved. The meeting, which came at Venezuela’s request, took place just hours after Venezuela released from prison an American filmmaker who had been jailed on espionage charges, removing an immediate irritant in the relationship.

Kerry thanked Foreign Minister Elias Jose Jaua for the release of Timothy Tracy, calling it a “very positive development” and said he and his counterpart had spent about 40 minutes going over in detail areas in which the two countries could cooperate.

“We agreed today … that we would like to see our countries find a new way forward,” he told reporters after the meeting which took place in Guatemala on the sidelines of the annual Organization of American States general assembly.

The two countries haven’t had ambassadors posted in each other’s capitals since 2010 near the height of the estrangement between the U.S. and late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who died in March.