U.S., Venezuela Diplomats Meet on Neutral Ground

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Officials from Venezuela and the U.S. held “positive and productive” talks in Haiti in an effort to thaw icy relations between the two countries.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez confirmed the meeting with State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon on her Twitter account on Sunday, saying it was held “to work toward normalizing relations.” The Venezuelan foreign ministry had no further comment beyond Rodriguez’s tweet.

The talks in Haiti’s capital of Port-Au-Prince were mediated by Haitian President Michel Martelly.

“The talks touched on all elements of our bilateral relationship. They were positive and productive,” Julia Straker, a State Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Venezuela-U.S. relations have been strained for several years. The countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010. Tensions flared again earlier this year after Washington imposed sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights violations during a wave of anti-government protests last year.

The U.S. has since quietly held talks with the Venezuelan government, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in April he was open to discussions.

Shannon was sent to Caracas in April to quell tensions ahead of the Americas Summit in Panama, meeting with both members of the government and opposition. Local media reported that Shannon was back in Caracas in May.

Haitian Elections

Shannon was scheduled to attend two meetings at the White House on June 12, according to the State Department’s calendar, a day before the talks occurred in Haiti. The content of those meetings was not disclosed.

Also present on Saturday were Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Pamela White and U.S. Special Coordinator for Haiti Thomas Adams.

Martelly had invited U.S. and Venezuelan officials to discuss support -- especially for security and logistics -- for the Caribbean nation’s elections, which are scheduled for August, as well as health care, energy and other topics.

“The talks were productive, with President Martelly identifying areas where both countries could deepen engagement with Haiti in coordination with ongoing international efforts,” Straker said.

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