May 25, 2019 / 8:35 PM / 21 days ago

Venezuela government, opposition will return to Norway for talks, Oslo says

OSLO (Reuters) - Representatives of Venezuela’s government and the opposition will return to Norway for a second round of talks to help resolve their months-long conflict, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: An opposition supporter wears a gas mask during clashes with security forces following a rally against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and to commemorate May Day in Caracas Venezuela, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

“We announce that the representatives of the main political actors in Venezuela have decided to return to Oslo next week to continue a process facilitated by Norway,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We reiterate our commitment to continue supporting the search for an agreed-upon solution between the parties in Venezuela,” it added.

Commenting on the initial talks earlier this month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he hoped the discussions would help to “build a peaceful agenda”.

Tensions in the crisis-stricken South American country escalated after a failed uprising last month led by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who called on the military to oust Maduro.

Guaido has insisted that any agreement would require Maduro to step down. Many sectors of the opposition remain skeptical of talks, arguing that Maduro has in the past used dialogue as a stalling tactic to maintain his grip on power.

Norway’s foreign ministry has a tradition of mediation in countries and regions riven by conflict.

“Norway commends the parties for their efforts and appreciates their disposition,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said on Saturday.

Venezuela was thrust into a deep power struggle in January when Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

The United States and many European countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader, but Maduro retains control of state functions and the support of the military, as well as allies like Russia, Cuba and China.

Economic collapse has driven more than 3 million Venezuelans to emigrate, fleeing hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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