Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has said in an interview that his foreign minister Jorge Arreaza secretly met with the US special envoy to Venezuela, despite Donald Trump's public calls for Maduro to step down.
According to the Venezuelan president, Arreaza was in New York recently, where he invited US Envoy Elliott Abrams to come to Venezuela "privately, publicly or secretly". He said the two officials had two meetings that lasted for several hours.
His revelations have been confirmed by two Venezuelan sources not authorised to discuss the matter, an AP report reads. The sources disclosed that the first meeting took place on 26 January, and the second happened on 11 February. Both meetings happened at the request of the US, the sources said.
Despite the hostile rhetoric, the Venezuelan side reportedly saw the meeting as a sign that there is room for discussion.
Speaking in an interview, Maduro attacked Donald Trump for his confrontational stance towards Venezuela's socialist government, but nevertheless expressed a readiness to meet the US president to solve the ongoing crisis. An unnamed US source admitted that US officials were willing to meet with "former Venezuela officials, including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans".
The US has imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry, effectively banning any oil purchases by American companies from Venezuela. Therefore, the Latin American country, which sits atop the world's largest oil reserves has turned its gaze towards Asia and especially India, where the head of national oil company PDVSA was this week negotiating new sales, AP reports.
On 23 January, the speaker of the opposition-led Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, declared himself interim president amid ongoing anti-government protests. Guaido's declaration was almost immediately recognised by the United States and some of its allies. EU member states were expected to issue a joint statement recognising Guaido, but Italy vetoed the motion, according to a Sputnik source.