January 14, 2018 / 4:37 AM / 8 months ago

Venezuela government, opposition conclude talks without agreement

((This January 13th story corrects title of Borges in paragraph nine to former national assembly president.))

FILE PHOTO: Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - Members of Venezuela’s leftist government and opposition leaders concluded a round of talks in the Dominican Republic on Saturday, failing to reach a deal to address the country’s political and economic crisis.

Saying they had made strides but needed more time, the parties announced another round of talks to begin in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 18.

The result prolongs the standoff between the government and the opposition, who have tried and failed for years to strike a pact. The two sides last met for talks in December.

Nevertheless, Dominican President Danilo Medina, who led the negotiations, expressed optimism about the progress made during the round.

“Although we have made extremely important advances, we still have pending matters that must be discussed,” he said at a press conference following the end of the talks.

Representatives from Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Nicaragua also participated in the discussions.

The parties did not detail where they had made progress.

As millions of Venezuelans grapple with shortages of food and basic goods, the opposition leaders are demanding that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accept humanitarian assistance from abroad, in addition to releasing several hundred jailed political activists.

“These days and hours of intense work are not enough to achieve what our people, the Venezuelan people, need to have an avenue, a path of hope,” said Julio Borges, former president of the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, at the press conference.

For its part, the government wants the opposition’s help in pushing for the elimination of sanctions levied last year by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration.

Reporting by Jorge Pineda in SANTO DOMINGO; additional reporting by Julia Love and Sharay Angulo in MEXICO CITY; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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