Venezuela's opposition says Norway-mediated dialogue with Maduro 'is finished'

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s opposition said on Sunday a dialogue mediated by Norway to try to resolve a political crisis had ended, six weeks after President Nicolas Maduro’s government suspended participation.

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The talks, most of which took place in Barbados, began after opposition leader Juan Guaido led a failed military uprising in April against Maduro, who is accused of rights violations and has overseen an economic collapse prompting millions to flee.

Maduro’s representatives walked away from the table in August to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s tightening of sanctions on the OPEC nation. Critics of the dialogue within Venezuela’s opposition coalition argued Maduro was negotiating in bad faith and using the talks to buy time.

“The dictatorial regime of Nicolas Maduro abandoned the negotiation process with false excuses,” Guaido’s office said in a statement. “After more than 40 days in which they have refused to continue, we confirm that the Barbados mechanism is finished.”

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

Despite the setback, Norwegian diplomats are still prepared to assist, said Dag Nylander, who heads international peace and reconciliation efforts at Norway’s Foreign Ministry.

“Norway is facilitating the negotiation process in Venezuela at the request of the principal political actors in the country, and reiterates its readiness to continue in this role as long as the parties consider it useful, and advance in the search of a negotiated solution,” Nylander tweeted on Monday.

Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution in January to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by dozens of countries, including the United States.

But Maduro, who calls Guaido a coup-mongering U.S. puppet, has held on to power despite a deepening economic slowdown and growing international isolation. The military has not abandoned him despite repeated calls by the opposition to do so, and he retains the support of Russia and China.

Opposition negotiators had said Maduro’s representatives were unwilling to discuss the opposition’s main priority - a new election under free and fair conditions.

In its Sunday statement, which it called a message to “the people and the armed forces,” Guaido’s office thanked Norway for facilitating the process but did not specify next steps.

“We must prepare to begin a new phase of this struggle that will require greater commitment, strength, determination, sacrifice and conviction from everyone,” the statement said.

Reporting by Luc Cohen in Caracas; Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik in Oslo; Editing by Peter Cooney and Andrew Cawthorne