Amid questions from the press about how he would respond to a prospective summit with Trump, Maduro said on Monday that he would meet with the US president on the basis of mutual respect.
Noting that in 2015 he had spoken "at length and in a respectful manner" with then-US Vice President Joe Biden, Maduro said he was willing to speak with Trump on the same terms, the national news agency Agencia Venezolana de Noticias reported.
The possibility of a peace summit recently appeared on the table once more after several attempts by one side or the other fell on deaf ears.
"I would maybe think about that ... Maduro would like to meet. And I'm never opposed to meetings - you know, rarely opposed to meetings," Trump told Axios in a Sunday interview. "I always say, you lose very little with meetings. But at this moment, I've turned them down."
Trump's reluctant admiration for Maduro, who has remained in power despite 18 months of attempts by the US to overthrow him or force him from power, was recently revealed in early reports from an upcoming tell-all book by Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton.
The book also reveals how little Trump thought of Juan Guaido, the opposition figure triumphed by Washington as the legitimate interim leader of Venezuela since January 2019. The US president reportedly thought of Guaido as weak, calling him "the Beto O'Rourke of Venezuela" in reference to a failed Democratic presidential contender of similar appearance. Guaido has failed to garner significant support for his movement despite much bluster and the support of roughly 50 nations, and has even lost his former office as leader of the country's National Assembly.
However, in that same book, Trump reportedly calls a prospective invasion of Venezuela "cool," and refers to the South American country as "part of the United States."
Biden, who is now the Democratic contender for the November 2020 presidential election against Trump, seized the opportunity, attacking Trump on Twitter as hypocritical.
"Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro. As President, I will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy," Biden wrote, quote-tweeting the Axios interview.
Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 22, 2020
As President, I will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy. https://t.co/eUt28UxyXS
In turn, Trump returned to his more bellicose stance on Monday, saying that "Unlike the radical left, I will ALWAYS stand against socialism and with the people of Venezuela. My Admin has always stood on the side of FREEDOM and LIBERTY and against the oppressive Maduro regime! I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power!"
Unlike the radical left, I will ALWAYS stand against socialism and with the people of Venezuela. My Admin has always stood on the side of FREEDOM and LIBERTY and against the oppressive Maduro regime! I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
In March, the US Department of Justice filed drug trafficking charges against Maduro, and the State Department placed a $15 million bounty on Maduro's head.