x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Venezuela taking steps to revive diplomatic ties

Venezuela has made a rare diplomatic overture to the United States, suggesting it could be time for better ties.

CARACAS // Venezuela has made a rare diplomatic overture to the United States, suggesting it could be time for better ties.

The designation of an acting head of Venezuela's diplomatic mission in the US shows the Opec nation's desire to restore full diplomatic relations, the foreign minister said on Sunday.

Disputes between Caracas and Washington were common during the 14-year rule of the late socialist leader, Hugo Chavez, leaving both nations without ambassadors in each other's capitals.

The foreign minister, Elias Jaua, suggested in a televised interview that the move to name Calixto Ortega as charge d'affaires in Washington could be a prelude to restoring ambassadors.

"This is a message for US politicians so they understand Venezuela's desire to normalise relations - via the designation of the highest diplomatic authorities," he said. "Why? Because the US remains our top trade partner."

The Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, has in recent months said he wants better ties with Washington as long as the relationship is respectful. But he has also accused the US of seeking to destabilise his country.

Last month, he slammed the US for "vulgar" meddling after the State Department said it had not decided if it would recognise his presidency and supported opposition calls for a vote recount after the April 14 election.

He won that vote, triggered by Chavez's death, by 1.5 per cent. The opposition refused to accept the results and is challenging the election in the country's top court.

In 2008, Chavez expelled the US ambassador, Patrick Duddy, from Caracas in a dispute over what the late president called Washington's involvement in violent protests in Bolivia.

In 2010, he blocked Washington's nomination of he diplomat Larry Palmer as ambassador in protest of Palmer's comments that there were "clear ties" between members of Chavez's government and leftist Colombian rebels.

The State Department responded by revoking the visa of Venezuela's ambassador.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse