Members of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that senior figures from both sides had received separate invitations from a group of Norwegians and then departed to engage in what they described as “exploratory” discussions in Oslo, Reuters and the Associated Press both reported.
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.
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 abroad,” without giving more details.
Norway’s Foreign Ministry said in March that it was ready to act as a mediator or facilitator of talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition.
The negotiations came amid a political stalemate after months of street demonstrations and an opposition call for a military uprising.
Venezuela has been shaken by political unrest in the past several months. In January, tensions worsened after opposition figure Juan Guaido, who is also president of the National Assembly, unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela.
The United States quickly accepted that self-proclamation and has since been working with Guaido.
On April 30, a small group of armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers at an anti-government rally in Caracas in an attempted coup that soon petered out.
The administration of US President Donald Trump backed the attempted putsch; but Maduro, who has called Guaido a puppet of Washington, announced in a televised speech later in the day that the group of military personnel supporting Guaido had been defeated, and 25 renegade soldiers had sought refuge at the Brazilian Embassy in Caracas.
Maduro slams ‘violation’ of Venezuelan Embassy in US
Also on Wednesday, the Venezuelan president denounced the “violation” of the country’s embassy in Washington after anti-coup activists who were in the building in support of his government were handed an eviction notice by police.
The pro-Maduro activists, aiming to prevent representatives of the Venezuelan opposition from taking over the diplomatic mission, have been staying inside the embassy with the permission of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry since late April.
The US administration has also turned off water and electricity supplies to force the activists out of the diplomatic mission.
US cuts water to Venezuela embassy to force out activistsThe US administration has cut water to force out a group of pro-Maduro activists gathered at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington.
Meanwhile, the US suspended all commercial passenger and cargo flights between America and Venezuela on Wednesday, claiming that the political unrest and tensions in the South American country posed a risk to flights.
The US Department of Homeland Security said the conditions in Venezuela “threaten the safety and security of passengers, aircraft, and crew,” and that the flight suspension would continue indefinitely.
Maduro criticized the suspension of flights, saying the measure was an attack on freedom of movement.