By Ank Kuipers
PARAMARIBO (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday a dialogue to resolve Venezuela’s political crisis should have “no preconditions,” as he visited the small South American country of Suriname at the end of a multi-nation Latin American tour.
Venezuela’s bitterly divided government and opposition are engaged in a dialogue mediated by Norway’s government. The opposition, led by National Assembly president Juan Guaido, has insisted President Nicolas Maduro step down to allow a transition government to call fresh elections.
Guaido in January invoked the constitution to assume a rival presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognised as the rightful leader by most Western nations, including the United States, but Maduro retains control of state functions and the backing of Russia, China and Cuba. Maduro has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup.
“We, just like our Surinamese friends, are convinced that it can result through a direct dialogue between the government and opposition with no preconditions, and without any threats that we hear coming from various capitals,” Lavrov said alongside Surinamese Foreign Minister Yldiz Pollack-Beighle in the capital Paramirabo.
The reference to “threats” was a jibe at the United States, which has said military intervention is “on the table” to resolve the crisis in Venezuela, which is marked by a hyperinflationary economic collapse and an exodus of more than 4 million people to neighbouring countries.
Earlier this week, Lavrov said Venezuela’s opposition was in contact with Moscow, and that the world should foster dialogue in Venezuela rather than impose its own agenda.
Pollack-Beighle did not mention Venezuela during her remarks. During a meeting of the Mercosur trade bloc earlier this month, Suriname’s ambassador to Cuba, Marciano Edgar Armaketo, said the country’s position on Venezuela was based on “non-interference in the affairs of states.”
(Reporting by Ank Kuipers in Paramaribo; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Matthew Lewis)