Norway pushing for resumption of Venezuela talks
Caracas, Aug 15 (IANS) National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido, who has been recognized as Venezuela's interim president by the United States and most other Western nations, said that a delegation from Norway is in the country in a bid to get the government and opposition back to the negotiating table.
President Nicolas Maduro, who continues to be acknowledged as head of state by dozens of other countries, including Russia and China, suspended mediated talks with the opposition last week.
"The Kingdom of Norway is insisting on the mechanism of mediation, as is the International Contact Group," Guaido said at a press conference on Wednesday, Efe news reported.
Guaido said no date has been established for a resumption of the suspended talks but that the opposition is willing to "participate in any space that brings (Venezuela) closer to a real solution to the conflict."
He added, however, that the desire for dialogue does not mean pressure will no longer be exerted on Maduro's government.
"For us pressure is essential under any scenario, and that's why our allies are exerting pressure ... what I can tell you is that we're going to insist via all useful mechanisms upon achieving the proposed objective: an end to (Maduro's) usurpation, a transitional government and free elections," Guaido said.
A week ago, Maduro announced his decision to suspend the Norway-mediated talks with the opposition that had been taking place on the Caribbean island of Barbados.
Maduro said then that decision was due to Guaido's support for an Aug. 5 action by President Donald Trump's administration to freeze all Venezuelan government assets in the US.
The move was aimed at further loosening Maduro's grip on power in Venezuela, a country already suffering from a deep recession, hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods.
Although Maduro has supported dialogue as the proper mechanism for resolving the political conflict in Venezuela, he also has said he won't return to the negotiating table "under these conditions."
Little is known about the content of the talks, although negotiators have said a six-point agenda is being discussed.
Maduro's administration is calling for a lifting of foreign-imposed sanctions on senior Venezuelan government officials, while the leftist president has stressed that his administration will not be blackmailed in the talks nor allow any agreements to be imposed by the United States or its allies.
The opposition, which says Maduro's May 2018 re-election victory was marred by fraud, insists that any agreement must include new presidential elections.
Guaido, the speaker of the opposition-led but toothless National Assembly (unicameral legislature), proclaimed himself interim president in January, a couple of weeks after Maduro was sworn in for a second term in office.