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Venezuela government, opposition in fresh talks on crisis

AFP  |  Santo Domingo (DR) 

Delegates from the Venezuelan and opposition today in the for a third round of talks on resolving the country's protracted crisis ahead of this year's presidential

The two-day meeting, on the neutral ground of the Dominican Republic, comes after the of threatened to ban key opposition parties from the

The opposition, in turn, threatened to resume street protests which cost the lives of 125 people last year.

The atmosphere was tense as the talks got under way.

The of the delegation, communications minister Jorge Rodriguez, accused the opposition of paying lip service to the talks while planning to "return to the strategy of violence."

"We do not need to go to the if they do not want to," he said on the eve of the talks. "Go to the streets. We will wait for them in the streets."

of the Popular Will opposition party was pessimistic.

"It seems to be in the air that we will not be able to advance," said Mejia, whose is under house arrest.

He said the negotiations will only work if the government commits to free and fair presidential elections, the date of which has yet to be set.

Maduro insisted the talks could yield a "preliminary deal," saying in a national address that he had instructed his negotiators to make progress.

"Let's not give the opposition any excuses to run off looking for violence," he said.

Venezuela's all-powerful Constituent Assembly, loyal to Maduro, has ordered the three main opposition parties to re- register with the (CNE) in order to take part in the presidential

The rule was imposed after the parties boycotted mayoral elections in December, saying they lacked transparency.

The opposition want the government to recognise their call for a more neutral CNE, international observers at the polls, the release of political prisoners and a later timeline for the election.

However, analysts believe it is likely the election will be in the first half of the year, as Maduro will seek to take advantage of opposition disarray evident in a string of electoral defeats late last year.

The government is demanding opposition recognition of the Constituent Assembly, set up by Maduro last year at the height of the opposition campaign to depose him. It has ruled with absolute powers since August.

Adding to the uncertainty around the talks, two of the countries that brokered them are threatening to pull out of the process: and

has accused the of breaking promises made at the negotiating table.

"If we don't get some concrete, credible results now, there's no point in continuing," Chilean wrote on

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 12 2018. 08:00 IST