Venezuela's embattled socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, has made his first public comments about mediation efforts taking place in Norway, saying government and the opposition representatives are seeking to "build a peaceful agenda."
The remarks came on May 17 after Norway’s government confirmed reports that it has had "preliminary contacts" with representatives from Maduro’s government and the opposition.
Norway's Foreign Ministry, which has in the past conducted similar conflict-mediation efforts, said the talks were in an "exploratory phase."
"We reiterate our willingness to continue supporting the search for a peaceful solution," the ministry said.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is not in Norway, has confirmed that the Scandinavian country was conducting mediation talks, but he denied the two parties were negotiating face-to-face.
Representatives from both sides arrived in Norway over the past week, indicating a new approach to ending a months-long crisis in the South American country.
An attempt at an uprising by Guaido apparently collapsed after Venezuela’s military failed to support his movement, which has brought hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets in protest against the Maduro government.
Maduro, backed by Russia, China, and Cuba, took office in 2013 and was sworn in for a second term in January following elections in May 2018 that were marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.
Maduro has been criticized for alleged human rights abuses and for his handling of Venezuela's economy.
Guaido, who leads the National Assembly, declared himself interim president in January and won support from major powers, including the United States and more than 50 other countries.