EU creates contact group for Venezuela crisis: Mogherini

Bucharest (AFP) –


The EU on Thursday announced the creation of an international contact group of European and Latin American countries to help chart a peaceful end to Venezuela's political crisis within 90 days.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the aim of the group was to enable the holding of new elections under democratic conditions -- and not to mediate with the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

A number of European countries are poised to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's acting head of state -- a move already endorsed by the European Parliament.

"The purpose of the international contact group is clear -- it is enabling Venezuelans to express themselves freely and democratically through the holding of new elections," Mogherini said after meeting EU foreign ministers in Bucharest.

"This is black and white on paper and it's clear. It's not about mediating, it's not about forms of dialogue. We have seen processes before that have indeed been used just to buy time."

The first meeting of the group will be held at ministerial level in Latin America next week, Mogherini said.

From the European side, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain have signed up, while from Latin America, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Bolivia have confirmed they will take part.

The United States and a dozen Latin American have recognised Guaido, 35, after he declared himself acting president last week in a direct challenge to Maduro, who has overseen his oil-rich country's collapse into economic ruin and political turmoil.

Adding to the pressure on Maduro, European Parliament voted on Thursday to recognise Guaido and urged the EU and its member states to follow suit.

Mogherini said such recognition was for countries to decide on, not EU institutions.

France, Britain, Germany and Spain are among the EU countries that have told Maduro to call elections by the weekend or they will recognise the opposition-backed parliamentary speaker.