May 7, 2019 / 7:15 PM / 5 months ago

EU-backed group says it is ready to send political mission to Venezuela

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - The European Union-backed International Contact Group on Venezuela said on Tuesday it could send a political mission to Caracas to pursue a solution to the country’s ongoing crisis, reiterating its call for fresh elections.

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the International Contact Group (IGC) to discuss their support for a political solution to Venezuela's political crisis, in San Jose, Costa Rica May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Speaking after a third meeting of the group in the Costa Rican capital San Jose, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said there should be no military intervention in Venezuela and urged all sides to avoid escalating tensions.

“The only way to unblock a stalemate - in which the country clearly is - is to find a democratic, peaceful political way forward that can be inclusive and that can respect the will of the Venezuelan people,” Mogherini told a news conference.

A stand-off between Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition intensified in January when Juan Guaido, leader of the National Assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume the interim presidency, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Guaido, who Maduro dismisses as a U.S. puppet trying to foment a coup, has won the backing of a number of Western powers.

Mogherini said free and fair elections should be held to break the impasse. To encourage a resolution, she added, the contact group “is ready to undertake a mission at the political level in Caracas.”

“There are a set of concrete options we have worked upon,” she said, declining to provide further details.

The group’s members, consisting of about a dozen countries from Europe and Latin America, and international governmental organizations, agreed to meet again soon to assess progress and the next steps, she said.

In addition, the group had accepted an invitation to meet with the Lima Group, a mostly Latin American set of nations also seeking an end to the crisis in Venezuela, Mogherini said.

The contact group formed in January, aiming to help create the conditions for Venezuela to emerge from the crisis.

Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dave Graham and Rosalba O'Brien

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