Representatives of Venezuela’s regime and the opposition are holding ‘peace negotiations’ in Oslo this week, Norwegian media reported Thursday.
Venezuela has been in political turmoil since assembly speaker Juan Guaidó declared himself acting president in January in a direct challenge to President Nicolas Maduro’s authority.
The NRK radio and television network, quoting anonymous sources, said peace talks have taken place at a secret location in the Norwegian capital for ‘several days’ and are expected to conclude on Thursday.
Talks between Maduro’s regime and Guaidó’s opposition at taking place at a ‘secret location’ in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. They are expected to conclude the talks today
Nicolas Maduro did not directly comment on the talks during televised remarks, but he said Rodríguez was on a ‘very important’ mission outside Venezuela.
It is the second time that such talks have been held in Oslo between Maduro’s regime and Guaido’s representatives, NRK said.
It said negotiations have also taken place in Cuba.
‘We can neither confirm nor deny Norway’s involvement in peace processes or dialogue initiatives,’ said Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Ane Haavardsdatter Lunde.
Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and the governor of Miranda province Hector Rodriguez represented Maduro’s government, NRK said.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro (right) accompanied by his Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, waves upon his arrival to Fort Tiuna, in Caracas, Venezuela in May 2019
The opposition is represented by former deputy Gerardo Blyde, former minister Fernando Martinez Mottola and the vice president of the National Assembly Stalin Gonzales.
In Caracas, Maduro said Jorge Rodriguez ‘is overseas, on a very important mission’.
Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature, is locked in a bitter power struggle with Maduro, who has presided over a spiralling political and economic crisis in Venezuela since taking over from late leftist leader Hugo Chavez in 2013.
Venezuela’s opposition leader and interim president Juan Guaido, speaks during a press conference at his campaign office in Caracas, Venezuela in May 2019
Maduro was re-elected to a second term in May 2018, in a vote boycotted by the opposition and rejected by much of the international community.
Guaido declared himself acting president on January 23, calling Maduro’s re-election illegitimate. The opposition leader has since been recognised by more than 50 countries, led by the United States.
Norway however has merely called for new free elections in Venezuela, a position seen as illustrating a willingness to act as a mediator between the two sides.
At the end of January, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said her country was ‘ready to contribute if and when the parties so wish’.
A supporter of Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó, waves a Venezuelan flag marked with the letters ‘SOS’, during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, May 11, 2019. Guaidó has called for nationwide marches protesting the Maduro government, demanding new elections and the release of jailed opposition lawmakers. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
However there is still conflict on several key issues hoped to be addressed by the Oslo meeting. The opposition has insisted that Maduro was illegitimately elected last year and that he must step aside to make way for elections. Maduro, in turn, accuses the opposition of being U.S. stooges intent on illegally seizing power.
The Norway dialogue comes as a mostly European group of nations prepares to send a high-level delegation to Venezuela to propose solutions to the country’s protracted crisis. The International Contact Group consists of eight European countries, the European Union and four Latin American countries.
The group formed after Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president early this year in a direct challenge to the rule of Maduro, who says his government champions the socialist principles of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez.
Guaidó’s opposition, which is backed by the United States and about 50 other nations, says Venezuela’s dire economic state is the result of years of corruption and mismanagement. Maduro blames the country’s problems on U.S. sanctions that were imposed more recently.
There is also speculation that the United States, the main backer of the Venezuelan opposition, might be considering military action as a way to end the crisis in the near term.
Officials have previously said they are focusing on diplomatic and economic measures to force out Maduro, though opposition leader Juan Guaidó said his Washington envoy will meet with the head of the U.S. Southern Command on Monday.
The United States suspended all commercial passenger and cargo flights between the U.S. and Venezuela, saying the political unrest and tensions there pose a risk to flights.
American Airlines also stopped its flights in mid-March after union leaders told pilots not to go there due to safety concerns. Some other international airlines quit flying to Venezuela years ago because of the country’s deteriorating economy.