By Diego Oré
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Venezuelan government is unwilling to resume negotiations with the country’s opposition on issues such as free elections and lifting economic sanctions if Norway acts as facilitator as it did last year at talks in Mexico, four sources close to the process told Reuters.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government has recently insisted on Russia’s presence at any negotiations, two of the sources said. Russia is a strong ally of Maduro’s government.
The Venezuelan opposition wants Norway to retain the facilitator role, according to an opposition source who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The Nordic country has successfully brokered accords to resolve past conflicts in Latin America and elsewhere.
The Venezuelan government and opposition said last week they were ready to return to the negotiating table, but they have not yet set a date. They met last year in Mexico City but Maduro’s representatives abandoned those talks in October.
Two of the sources said more negotiations are expected in Mexico in the first half of June.
Even though other countries, including Russia, were proposed as observers in the last talks, their presence was never formalized.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry, the Norwegian and Russian embassies in Caracas and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Washington is strongly encouraging a resumption in talks about elections, freeing political prisoners and other demands.
(Reporting by Diego Ore in Mexico City, additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston, Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)