Caracas, Feb 16 (AP) Venezuelan and Russian officials met for high-level discussions in the South American country Wednesday, a day after diplomats from the US and several other nations gathered to discuss steps toward a negotiated solution to the country’s protracted crisis.
The meeting between Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov and Venezuela’s Petroleum Minister Tareck El Aissami was meant to “strengthen strategic cooperation relations”, according to a statement from the Venezuelan government.
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The meeting came about a month after Presidents Vladimir Putin and Nicolás Maduro spoke by phone about cooperation between their countries amid talk of possible Russian troop deployment to Venezuela.
El Aissami said in a statement after the meeting that the two sides were “broadening the horizons of this virtuous cooperation that is based on more than 20 cooperation agreements in different areas, in which the energy sector stands out”.
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Russia is a major political ally of Venezuela, which has become increasingly isolated under economic sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union, accusing Maduro of undermining democratic institutions to hold onto power. It has also undergone massive economic and political crises.
Representatives of Maduro and the US-backed opposition gathered last year in Mexico City to find a common path out of their country’s political standoff, but those discussions were suspended in October.
Representatives from the US the EU and more than a dozen other countries on Tuesday discussed the importance of scheduling “free and fair” presidential elections under an independent electoral agency no later than 2024 — when they should theoretically take place — according to a statement from the US Department of State.
They also discussed “urgently resuming inclusive negotiations in Mexico in good faith,” according to the statement.
Russia previously helped Venezuela design a cryptocurrency and briefly dispatched a pair of its nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers in 2018. It also provided COVID-19 vaccines.
Last month, Russia’s chief negotiator in talks with the US on tensions over Ukraine said he would “neither confirm nor exclude” the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if the US and its allies don’t curtail their military activities on Russia’s doorstep. The US dismissed the comments from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as bluster. (AP)
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