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Russia Confirms Lavrov-Pompeo Meeting Next Week Amid Venezuela Tensions


Russian Foreign Ministry said Sergei Lavrov (left) and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (combination file photo)

A senior Russian diplomat has confirmed that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo next week in Finland amid simmering tensions between Moscow and Washington over the crisis in Venezuela.

Unnamed U.S. officials said on May 2 that the two diplomats would discuss "a broad range of issues" when they attend the two-day Arctic Council meeting starting on May 6 in the northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi.

On May 3, Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that the meeting -- which would be only the second full-fledged encounter between Lavrov and Pompeo -- has been set up.

The unrest in Venezuela is likely to be a key point of discussion. Washington views President Nicolas Maduro's reelection last year as illegitimate and has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. Russia has been supporting Maduro.

"The meeting will be held. It is quite clear that Venezuela will be the focus of the Lavrov-Pompeo meeting in Rovaniemi," Ryabkov told Interfax.

"Also, it's likely that Syria and possibly Ukraine will be discussed," Ryabkov said.

Lavrov on May 2 rejected Pompeo's statement aired on April 30 on CNN that Maduro had been ready to go into exile in Cuba but was persuaded by Russia to remain.

Russia, which has substantial economic ties to Maduro's government, sent planes to Venezuela in March, carrying nearly 100 military personnel who the U.S. government believes included special forces and cybersecurity experts to Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's Supreme Court has ordered the rearrest of influential opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez -- who on April 30 appeared alongside Guaido after being freed from house arrest.

On April 30, Guaido called for a military uprising against Maduro, prompting Venezuelan National Guard troops to fire tear gas at protesters who took to the streets following Guaido's call.

Lopez has since taken refuge at the Spanish Embassy. Madrid has said it would not hand over Lopez to Venezuelan authorities, nor would it ask him to leave.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, and TASS
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