STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
THE meeting between King Juan Carlos and the Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, at the monarch's summer palace in Majorca this Friday will help strengthen relations between Spain and Venezuela, according to diplomatic sources.

Relations between Spain and Venezuela took a sour turn following the infamous exchange between the King and Chavez at the Iberoamerican Summit in Chile last November.

The King told Chavez to shut up after the Venezuelan leader repeatedly described former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar as a fascist.
The King then got up and left the room, only to return for the end of the summit.
The current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, also intervened to defend his predecessor, saying that he didn't agree with Aznar's ideological beliefs but that he had been elected democratically.

Since then the two countries have made efforts to normalise relations.
Zapatero and Chavez met briefly at the Europe-Latin America summit in May and the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos, paid a visit to Caracas last month, during which he invited the Venezuelan leader to Spain.

The South American leader's brief stop in Spain comes at the end of his European tour this week that includes Russia, Belarus and Portugal.
After meeting with the King at Marivent on Friday, he will fly to Madrid to meet Zapatero at the Moncloa.
Afterwards, the two leaders will hold a short press conference before having lunch together.
The visit is “evidence of the strong links” between the two countries, according to the Venezuelan embassy in Spain and represents a “propitious occasion in which to strengthen bilateral relations”.

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