Norway in contact with Venezuelan parties on talks after Maduro suspends meeting

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Battle in the Vargas Swamp at the National Pantheon in Caracas, Venezuela July 25, 2019. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

CARACAS (Reuters) - The Norwegian government said on Thursday it remains in touch with Venezuela’s government and opposition about continuing talks to resolve the country’s political crisis after President Nicolas Maduro called off this week’s round of Oslo-mediated discussions.

Maduro on Wednesday said his government would not attend talks set for Thursday and Friday, in a protest over a new set of U.S. sanctions meant to force him from power. Maduro accused opposition leader Juan Guaido of celebrating the measures, which froze all Venezuelan government assets in the United States.

The Norwegian government did not set a date for the next round of talks. The talks began in May after a failed military uprising led by Guaido.

“We are in touch with them regarding the next meetings,” Dag Nylander, Norway’s chief facilitator for the talks, said in a statement. “The facilitation continues under the principle that the parties would like it to, and that there are realistic prospects of a negotiated solution.”

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Guaido said the government’s decision to skip the talks “is evidence of its bad faith and lack of seriousness.”

“If the Oslo mechanism provides a real solution to this crisis, we will take it on,” Guaido said in a statement. “If not, we will achieve the necessary change through other mechanisms.”

Guaido, the chief of the opposition-held National Assembly, in January invoked the constitution to assume a rival presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He was backed by most Western democracies, including the United States.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S. puppet. He has refused to step down despite Venezuela’s economic collapse and U.S. sanctions on the state oil company and central bank.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Luc Cohen; editing by Nate Raymond and Grant McCool