Norway Downplays Maduro’s Skipping of Talks With Opposition

The chief facilitator of negotiations between Venezuela’s socialist administration and opposition has downplayed the decision by President Nicolas Maduro to skip a scheduled round of talks.

Dag Nylander of Norway’s Foreign Affairs Ministry told The Associated Press on Thursday he’s in contact with both sides about finding a date for talks to resume.

Maduro on Wednesday night said he had decided not to send envoys to the Caribbean island of Barbados, where talks were to resume Thursday. That was to protest the Trump administration’s decision to freeze the Venezuelan government’s assets in the U.S. and threaten to retaliate against foreign companies that continue to do business with his government.

Maduro’s government also said it would review the mechanism of the talks to ensure it contributes to an efficient solution to the problems Venezuelans face.

“Norway is facilitating the negotiation process at the request of the principal political actors in Venezuela and schedules all meetings based on the availability of the parties. Accordingly we are in touch with them regarding the next meetings,” said Nylander, the head of the peace and reconciliation office at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He added:  “The facilitation continues under the principle that the parties would like it to, and that there are realistic prospects of a negotiated solution that can benefit the Venezuelan people.”

In announcing the sweeping move, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the dialogue between the government and opposition was being used by Maduro to buy time.

“We will not fall for these old tricks of a tired dictator,” Bolton declared Tuesday at a meeting in Peru of more than 50 governments aligned against Maduro. “No more time for tap, tap, tapping. Now is the time for action.”

But some believe Bolton’s admonishments might end of strengthening the negotiations, which have been taking place since May.

The United Nations reiterated Thursday U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ “strong support” for Norway’s mediation effort.

“Our position is unchanged — that only a settlement through negotiations will solve this ongoing situation,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric.  

Meanwhile, the U.N.’s top human rights official criticized the U.S.’ response as overhanded and bound to intensify suffering in a country already racked by six-digit hyperinflation, food shortages and an economic recession worse than the U.S. Great Depression.

Michelle Bachelet, who sharply criticized Maduro’s human rights record following a visit to the country in June, said that provision in the new sanctions allowing for the shipment of food and medicine are unlikely to suffice.

“They are still likely to significantly exacerbate the crisis for millions of ordinary Venezuelans, especially as there will certainly be over-compliance by financial institutions around the world that have commercial relations with the governments of the US and Venezuela,” she said.

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