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Venezuela calls for Trump-Maduro talks

Venezuela’s foreign minister on Wednesday called for direct talks between President Nicolas Maduro and his US counterpart Donald Trump to help ease the crisis in the country.

The call from Venezuela’s top diplomat Jorge Arreaza came in an address to the United Nations Human Rights Council that was boycotted by multiple diplomats including from Latin America and Europe.

“We are proposing the path of dialogue, even with the United States… Why shouldn’t they meet, President Trump and President Maduro?” Arreaza said.

The United States does not sit in the rights council following Trump’s decision to quit the body last year. But the American envoy to the UN’s Conference on Disarmament (CoD) Robert Wood walked out of that chamber as another Venezuelan diplomat, Felix Plasencia, took the podium.

Several Latin American, European and other diplomats also joined Wood’s walkout.

Asked later about the prospects of a Trump-Maduro summit, Wood told reporters: “President Trump is prepared to meet with the rightful president of Venezuela and that is Juan Guaido.”

The US has led a diplomatic campaign in support of opposition leader Guaido who has declared himself interim president and is recognised by about 50 countries, notably within the EU.

Arreaza denounced what he described as a campaign of “aggression” being perpetrated by the United States against Venezuela, including an international assault on the government’s foreign assets.

He said Washington’s actions were depriving ordinary Venezuelans of food and medicine, and called on the rights council to “raise its voice” against the American “blockade.”

Wood said it was a “disgrace” that Maduro’s representatives were being allowed to address UN bodies.

Wednesday’s walkouts in the rights council and disarmament chamber “sent a very powerful message,” he added.

“The former Maduro regime should not be allowed to try to continue to represent the Venezuelan people,” Wood said.

The US has ramped up the pressure on the Maduro regime with sanctions against top officials, and the promise to exempt those who recognise Guaido as their true leader.

An estimated 2.7 million people are estimated to have fled Venezuela since a devastating political and economic crisis engulfed the country in 2015, according to the UN.