Sun, May 19, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Maduro hails start of talks in Norway with the opposition

AFP, CARACAS

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday welcomed the “beginning of talks” with the opposition in Norway, following months of bloody clashes between the two sides.

“The talks have begun nicely to move toward agreements of peace, agreement and harmony, and I ask for the support of all Venezuelan people to advance on the path of peace,” Maduro said at a ceremony in front of 6,500 troops in northern Aragua State.

Confronted with the worst socioeconomic crisis in the oil-producing country’s recent history, the socialist leader added that: “Venezuela has to process its conflicts” and seek solutions “by way of peace.”

He declared the “beginning and exploration of conversations and dialogue” with the opposition.

Maduro’s depiction of the talks was at odds with Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who on Thursday denied they were underway.

“There is no negotiation whatsoever,” Guaido told reporters.

Instead, Norwegian officials were “trying to mediate” with both sides to bring them to the table, he said.

Friday’s ceremony in Aragua was attended by Venezuelan Minister of Popular Power for Communication and Information Jorge Rodriguez and Miranda State Governor Hector Rodriguez, the government’s representatives in the Oslo talks.

Maduro hailed the “good news” hours after Norway reported on preliminary contacts between the parties.

Earlier, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza gave the first official confirmation from Caracas of its involvement in what Norway referred to as exploratory discussions in Oslo.

The mediation bid comes after a months-long power struggle between opposition leader Guaido and the socialist president, with sometimes deadly street clashes.

Maduro on Thursday made no direct reference to the meetings, but said that Rodriguez was “on a very important mission for peace in the country... in Europe.”

Details of the exact process under way in Oslo have been scant.

The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it had made “preliminary contacts with representatives of the main political actors of Venezuela.”

These were “part of an exploratory phase, with the aim of contributing to finding a solution to the situation in the country,” it added.

The opposition said that it was being represented by National Assembly Vice President Stalin Gonzalez and former lawmaker Gerardo Blyde.

US-backed Guaido has been recognized by dozens of countries as interim president after dismissing Maduro’s presidency as “illegitimate” following his re-election last year in polls widely dismissed as rigged.

Maduro has been shunned by much of the international community for presiding over the country’s economic collapse and brutally suppressing dissent.

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