CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Representatives of the Venezuelan government and opposition have decided to return to Norway for a mediation effort aimed at resolving the political crisis in the South American country, the Norwegian government said Saturday.
Norway said it will facilitate discussions next week in Oslo, in an indication that the negotiation track is gaining momentum after months of escalating tension between Venezuelan President NicolÃ¡s Maduro and opposition leader Juan GuaidÃ³.
The government delegation includes Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as well as the information minister, Jorge RodrÃguez, and HÃ©ctor RodrÃguez, the governor of Venezuela’s Miranda state, and Larry Davoe, said a government official who was not authorized to speak to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Opposition representatives are Stalin GonzÃ¡lez, a senior member of the opposition-controlled congress, Fernando MartÃnez Mottola, Vicente Diaz and Gerardo Blyde, according to a person who met with the delegation before it headed to Oslo on Saturday.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide praised both sides for their involvement.
Representatives of Venezuela’s political factions traveled to the European country earlier this month for talks, but it had been unclear if they would continue to engage with one another amid increased tensions over the opposition’s call for a military uprising on April 30.
The opposition had previously ruled out talks, accusing Maduro of using negotiations between 2016 and 2018 to play for time, and has demanded Maduro’s resignation and early elections. Maduro, in turn, alleges the opposition tried to seize power by force.
The diplomatic effort reflects recognition in Venezuela that neither side has been able to prevail in the struggle for power, leaving the country in a state of political paralysis after years of hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine. Several million Venezuelans have left the country, creating Latin America’s biggest migration crisis.
The United States and more than 50 other countries support GuaidÃ³’s claim to be Venezuela’s rightful leader. The U.S. has imposed oil sanctions to try to force out Maduro, whose key allies are Cuba, Russia and China.
Norway has a long, successful history of foreign mediation: The country hosted peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in September 1993 and Maoist rebels and the government in the Philippines in 2011. The government also brokered a 2002 cease-fire between Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebel negotiators. Seven years ago, mediators from the Colombian government and left-wing FARC rebels held their first direct talks in a decade in Norway.
Associated Press journalist Joshua Goodman contributed from Bogota, Colombia.