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Venezuela in Oslo produce possibility of more talking

Ben Stansall/AFP

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement that Venezuela's factions “demonstrated their willingness to move forward in the search for an agreed-upon and constitutional solution for the country, which includes political, economic and electoral matters.”

- Both sides show ‘willingness to move forward,' Norway says
- Opposition demanding that government bring concrete proposals

By Andrew Rosati and Alex Vasquez / Bloomberg

Petroleumworld 05 30 2019

The latest meetings between the Venezuelan government and opposition ended in Oslo with the Norwegian government applauding both sides for agreeing to move forward in the effort to solve the South American nation's profound crisis.

The second round of exploratory talks in Norway is part of a growing international push to broker an end to a bitter clash between President Nicolas Maduro, who has been accused of stealing his last election, and Juan Guaido, the head of opposition-dominated National Assembly who says he is the country's rightful leader.

Few details have been revealed about the discussions, but Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Soreide said in a statement that Venezuela's factions “demonstrated their willingness to move forward in the search for an agreed-upon and constitutional solution for the country, which includes political, economic and electoral matters.”

Nothing has been agreed upon, according to diplomats and lawmakers who asked not to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the conversations. Neither side has committed to further talks, they said.

Read more - Why Venezuela Has Two Presidents, One Thorny Standoff

Maduro said his government had negotiated secretly with the opposition for three months leading up to the Oslo talks.

“I do want a peace accord for Venezuela. Of course I want it,” Maduro said Wednesday on state television. “I ask for support from the country, Chavismo and the homeland.”

Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez, who heads the Maduro delegation, wrote on Twitter that the government would “continue working for peace.” Guaido's communications team said in a statement that no accord had been reached, but the opposition was “willing to continue” with the Norwegian effort.

The fight has paralyzed this once-wealthy nation as dysfunction, hunger and hyperinflation wear down a weary population. Guaido has rallied millions of his countrymen and some 50 nations behind him in his drive for regime change, but has failed to dislodge Maduro. The 56-year-old autocrat has withstood bloody protests and crippling international sanctions, largely thanks to support from the military and allies like Russia and China.

What Broke Venezuela's Economy and What Could Fix It: QuickTake

Since taking the reins of the National Assembly in January, Guaido has demanded that Maduro step down so fresh elections can be held. While the legislature was stripped of almost all functions in 2017, the 35-year-old lawmaker invoked a provision in the nation's charter to launch an interim government, which immediately gained the backing of the U.S. The Trump administration has blacklisted many top regime figures and put sanctions on key industries such as oil and gold.

Expectations remain low about diplomatic efforts to ease tensions as the government cracks down on foes and the opposition's street movement loses steam. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, stacked with Maduro loyalists, stripped the parliamentary immunity from another opposition lawmaker, bringing the total to over a dozen anti-government politicians that are being probed for treason after Guaido spearheaded a botched military uprising last month.

Regional leaders and the Vatican failed to broker a solution amid past waves of unrest, and critics say Maduro's recent overtures are little more than a ploy.

In Oslo, the sides met face to face, according to diplomats and lawmakers. Government representatives centered discussion on the release of political prisoners and the easing of international sanctions. Opposition officials demanded concrete proposals as prerequisite for their attendance at another meeting, they said.

Soreide, in her statement, urged both sides to “show their utmost caution in their comments and statements regarding the process.”

— With assistance by Jose Orozco

Story by Andrew Rosati and Alex Vasquez from Bloomberg. 05 29 2019


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