U.S., EU, Canada willing to review Venezuela sanctions based on negotiations

CARACAS, June 25 (Reuters) - The United States, the European Union and Canada said on Friday they would be willing to review their sanctions policies if Venezuela’s government and opposition are able to make “meaningful progress” in any talks to hold transparent elections.

The statement by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau came after allies of opposition leader Juan Guaido met with U.S. officials in Washington this week about efforts to establish a dialogue with President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“A time-bound and comprehensive negotiation process should restore the country’s institutions and allow for all Venezuelans to express themselves politically through credible, inclusive and transparent local, parliamentary, and presidential elections,” the joint statement read.

“We ... are willing to review sanctions policies based on meaningful progress in a comprehensive negotiation,” it said.

The United States imposed sanctions on the OPEC nation’s state oil company in early 2019 over allegations that Maduro rigged his 2018 re-election. Ottawa and Brussels have also sanctioned several senior Venezuelan officials.

But the sanctions and diplomatic pressure have so far had little effect. Maduro allies, who deny rigging elections, have said they will not hold presidential elections before 2024, when the next polls are scheduled.

The opposition has re-established contact with Norwegian officials in recent weeks to facilitate a negotiation with the government, after a previous effort in mid-2019 fell through.

Maduro, a socialist who labels Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, has said he is willing to negotiate with the opposition but has demanded the lifting of sanctions as a condition.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Guaido has proposed the progressive lifting of sanctions as an incentive for Maduro to agree to transparent presidential and parliamentary polls. (Reporting by Vivian Sequera Writing by Luc Cohen Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)