Venezuela: Maduro hails start of talks with opposition

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on December 30, 2014. Venezuela confirmed Tuesday that it has entered recession, while annual inflation topped 63 percent, exacerbating the outlook for an economy already hit by crippling shortages and crashing oil prices. AFP PHOTO/JUAN BARRETO

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro  has welcomed the opening of talks with the opposition, after months of bloody clashes between the two sides.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido denies that any discussions are underway.

The supposed talks, brokered by Norway, are a “move toward agreements of peace, agreement and harmony,” Maduro declared at a ceremony in front of 6,500 troops in the northern state of Aragua. He asked for the support of all Venezuelan people.

Confronted with the worst socio-economic crisis in the oil-producing country’s recent history, the socialist leader added that “Venezuela has to process its conflicts” and seek solutions “by way of peace.”

He declared the “beginning and exploration of conversations and dialogues” with the opposition.

Maduro’s depiction of the talks was at odds with opposition leader Juan Guaido who on Thursday denied that any discussions were underway.

“There is no negotiation whatsoever,” Guaido told reporters. Instead, he claimed, Norwegian officials were “trying to mediate” with both sides to bring them to the table.

Norway’s foreign ministry said in a statement it had made “preliminary contacts with representatives of the main political actors of Venezuela.”

The mediation bid comes after a months-long power struggle between National Assembly leader Guaido and the socialist president, with sometimes deadly street clashes.

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