Venezuela's government and opposition will send delegates to the Dominican Republic to discuss the possibility of negotiations after months of turmoil in the country.
Venezuela's government and opposition say they will send delegates to explore the possibility of resuming talks in response to an invitation from the Dominican Republic.
Former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Dominican Foreign Minister Miguel Vargas sent an invitation on Tuesday encouraging Venezuelan government and opposition leaders to participate in a new round of dialogue aimed at ending the nation's upheaval.
President Nicolas Maduro said on state television that he is accepting the invitation and sending a delegation "within the next hours."
Venezuela's Democratic Unity Coalition said it would send a delegation to meet with Dominican President Danilo Medina to discuss the conditions under which dialogue could be held, but denied that any talks as such had begun.
"The invitation by [Medina] does NOT represent the start of a formal dialogue with the government," the coalition said in a statement. "To begin serious negotiations, we demand immediate concrete actions that show true willingness to solve problems rather than to buy time."
The statement reiterated long standing opposition demands including the release of political prisoners, respect for the opposition-run congress and measures to ease a crippling economic crisis.
France's foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the parties would hold a round of talks on Wednesday, and the meeting would involve Medina and Zapatero.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his full support for the talks.
"The Secretary-General encourages the Venezuelan political actors to seize this opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to address the country's challenges through mediation and peaceful means," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Previous calls for dialogue
Maduro routinely calls for dialogue with the opposition, but his adversaries see dialogue as a stalling mechanism that burnishes the government's image without producing concrete results.
In a televised broadcast on Tuesday evening, he voiced renewed support for dialogue and said he was sending Socialist Party heavyweight Jorge Rodriguez to represent the government in the Dominican Republic.
A dialogue process brokered by Zapatero and backed by the Vatican in 2016 did little to advance opposition demands.
Many Maduro critics believe opposition leaders were duped in that dialogue process, and have grown suspicious of Zapatero as an intermediary.
Like fellow-EU member Spain a few days earlier, Le Drian also warned Jorge Arreaza, the foreign minister of Venezuela, that if the situation continued there would be consequences.
"I reminded him of the risk of European sanctions and the need to rapidly see evidence from Venezuela that it is ready to relaunch negotiations with the opposition and engage in a sincere and credible process," he said.