Venezuela peace talks in Oslo provide glimmer of hope


Talks taking place in Oslo with representatives of Venezuela's government and opposition to resolve the country's political crisis are in an "exploratory phase", Norway's foreign ministry said on Friday.

Jorge Valero, the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN Office in Geneva (UNOG), subsequently said that the talks between the government and the opposition's democratic segment were underway in Oslo.

According to the officials, the representatives include Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez on the Venezuelan government's side and Stalin Gonzalez, a leading member of the National Assembly, which is the now-defunct opposition-controlled congress.

One official said delegations from the two opposing camps were travelling after receiving separate invitations from a group of Norwegians.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tacitly pointed to bilateral talks in Oslo in his televised remarks on Wednesday, saying that Rodriguez was "completing a very important mission overseas", without giving more details.

The protesters consider Nicolás Maduro to be the legitimate Venezuelan president.

When asked about the talks in Norway, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York: "We're very much aware of what is going on and very much supportive of this process".

In recent months, with the support of Norway's foreign ministry, its representatives made several trips to Caracas.

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Norway has a long, successful history of foreign mediation: The country hosted peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in September 1993, and the Philippines government and Maoist rebels in 2011.

Juan Guaido, left, said Venezuela's opposition won't enter into any "false negotiation" with President Nicolas Maduro.

The activists, members of the Embassy Protection Collective, occupied the premises with permission of Venezuelan diplomats who were ordered to leave the country by the Trump administration.

Diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving Venezuela's crisis accelerated on Thursday as the government and opposition sent envoys to talks in Norway, though the two sides' mutual mistrust and differences on key issues could prevent any quick solution.

Four demonstrators who have been staging a protest inside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington for weeks were arrested Thursday, signaling a possible resolution to the extended stand-off.

Guaido, who denounces Maduro's 2018 re-election as fraudulent, called for Venezuela's military to rise up on April 30, but his push quickly petered out and the military's top brass has since then sworn allegiance to Maduro.

The agency said the decision is "based on the ongoing political instability and increased tensions in Venezuela and associated inadvertent risk to flight operations".

Venezuela has been in political turmoil since assembly speaker Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in January in a direct challenge to President Nicolas Maduro's authority.