“We are committed … this is an obligation and hopefully the opposition will continue to take part in the talks,” Jorge Arreaza said.
Representatives of the Venezuelan government are meeting with leaders of the country’s opposition in the Dominican Republic to continue dialogue aimed at promoting peace and unity.
Delegates from both sides are resuming talks after a two-week hiatus. Members of the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition are representing the opposition.
“The Venezuelan government is absolutely willing to dialogue,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said.
“We are committed … this is an obligation and hopefully the opposition will continue to take part in the talks.”
After previous two-day discussions ended on Dec. 2, Dominican President Danilo Medina, a lead broker in the negotiations, said “the government and the opposition declare that there has been significant progress in the search for an agreement that peacefully resolves the situation in Venezuela.”
“It’s better to go slowly so that things go well,” he added.
Representatives from Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, will continue to observe the talks.
Negotiations will focus on six pending agenda points that include, on the part of the government, that the opposition recognize the legitimacy of the freely-elected National Constituent Assembly, ANC, in place since August. They also want the opposition to stop working with the U.S. government to enact strict economic and political sanctions against the Venezuelan government.
The opposition, lead by Simon Calzadilla, is looking to install a new National Electoral Council, CNE, to agree upon special conditions on the 2018 presidential elections, and to replace the ANC with a new National Assembly.
Opposition leaders also want to open the country to “humanitarian aid,” which could potentially happen if U.S. sanctions are lifted.
Arreaza told EFE that the government hopes to “guarantee a peaceful coexistence where the law is respected and where violence is left out of any political game,” referring to opposition-incited riots last April that left over 100 dead and caused millions of dollars of damages to public and private properties.
The Dec. 1 and 2 negotiations between the Venezuelan government and the opposition were a watershed moment in the country’s recent political history as President Nicolas Maduro had called for peace talks to begin over 300 times since he took office in 2013. After the government’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela swept the country’s municipal elections in October, the opposition conceded to talk.
“We’ll be at the meetings with the opposition,” Arreaza said.
“After so much insistence, we’ve been able to get them to sit … at the dialogue table to settle and resolve the social, economic and political problems in Venezuela.