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Venezuela government, opposition to meet, France announces
Venezuela's government and opposition was to hold a series of discussions in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced after meeting his Venezuelan counterpart in Paris. But opposition leaders stressed the meeting would not be the start of formal dialogue with President Nicolas Maduro's government.
"I was happy to learn that the dialogue with the opposition would resume tomorrow in the Dominican Republic," Le Drian said after meeting Jorge Arreaza Montserrat on Tuesday.
The discussions would be overseen by Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina and Spain's former prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable announced that it was sending a delegation to discuss conditions for dialogue but stressed in a statement that this was not the beginning of formal negotiations with the government.
And two leaders of opposition parties - Enrique Marquez and Tomas Guanipa - denied all knowledge of the talks.
Maduro has repeatedly called for talks with the opposition, which controls the National Assembly but boycotted the poll for a constituent assembly organised by Maduro's supporters, but has rejected its calls for the release of political prisoners and recognition of the assembly's authority.
In a meeting that was described as "frank", Le Drian threatened Arreaza with European Union sanctions if dialogue is not opened.
"I reiterated to my counterpart that France, in collaboration with the EU and the Latin American countries, remained vigilant, but was ready to support this dialogue - the only way to resolve the crisis, the main victims of which are the Venezuelan people," he said in a statement.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also expressed support for the meeting.
On Monday the UN human rights commissioner Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad called for an international inquiry into the repression of demonstrations in Venezuela, claiming they could constitute crimes against humanity, an accusation Arreaza described as "unfounded" and "a tissue of lies".
President Emmanuel Macron met opposition leaders earlier this month.