Maduro government welcomes Norway 'dialogue' efforts

Caracas (AFP) –


The government of President Nicolas Maduro on Friday thanked Norway for its mediation efforts to build a "dialogue" with the Venezuelan opposition after both sides sent delegations to Oslo.

"President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution express their gratitude to Norway and their support for dialogue for peace and sovereignty," Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted.

It was the first official confirmation from Caracas of its involvement in what Norway referred to as exploratory discussions in Oslo.

The mediation bid comes after a months-long power struggle between National Assembly leader Juan Guaido and the socialist president, with sometimes deadly street clashes.

Maduro on Thursday made no direct reference to the meetings, but said Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez was "on a very important mission for peace in the country... in Europe".

So far details of the exact process underway in Oslo have been scant, but US-backed opposition leader Guaido -- recognized as interim president by dozens of countries -- denied on Thursday that any direct negotiations had taken place.

Norway's foreign ministry said in a statement it had had "preliminary contacts with representatives of the main political actors of Venezuela."

These were "part of an exploratory phase, with the aim of contributing to finding a solution to the situation in the country."

Rodriguez and Miranda state governor Hector Rodriguez represented the regime in the discussions, according to media reports.

The opposition said it was being represented by National Assembly vice president Stalin Gonzalez and former lawmaker Gerardo Blyde.

Maduro has been shunned by much of the international community for presiding over elections widely-dismissed as a sham and the oil-rich Latin American country's economic collapse as well as for brutally suppressing dissent.

Shortages of basic goods have forced millions to flee Venezuela.