ANTIGUA, Guatemala – The United States and Venezuela want to “establish a more constructive and positive relationship” after years of strained ties, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday following talks with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua.
“We agreed today, both of us, that we would like to see our countries find a new way forward,” Kerry told reporters in Guatemala’s old colonial capital.
“To that end, we agreed today there will be an ongoing, continuing dialogue between the State Department and the Foreign Ministry, and we will try to set out an agenda by which we agree on things we can work together,” the secretary said.
The two officials met on the sidelines of the Organization of American States General Assembly.
A priority of the bilateral dialogue will be reaching an accord to exchange ambassadors, Kerry said.
Diplomatic relations between Washington and Caracas have been conducted at the level of charge d’affaires since late 2010.
The secretary took the opportunity to thank the Venezuelan government for sending home a U.S. independent filmmaker who was arrested in Caracas in April and accused of espionage.
Timothy Hallet Tracy was taken early Wednesday to Caracas’ international airport, where he boarded a commercial flight bound for Miami.
The meeting with Kerry was “cordial, frank,” Jaua told Caracas-based cable news channel Telesur, expressing confidence the discussions would “mark the start of a relationship of respect.”
“A good relationship between the government of President Nicolas Maduro and the government of President Barack Obama is what suits both peoples, it’s the guarantee of peace and stability for our peoples,” the Venezuelan said.
Mutual respect, non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs and the appropriate handling of disagreements are the foundations of a good bilateral relationship, Jaua said.
The foreign minister said he gave Kerry a report on the violence that followed Venezuela’s April 14 special election to choose a successor to leftist President Hugo Chavez, who died March 5 after a long battle with cancer.
The disturbances left 11 people dead and 80 others injured. Most of the casualties were supporters of Maduro, Chavez’s designated successor.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles said he would not recognize Maduro’s narrow win until the CNE electoral council carried out a full audit of the results.
That audit is now in progress, but Capriles is boycotting the process, even as he continues to cry fraud.
Unlike the vast majority of the world’s governments, the United States has yet to recognize Maduro’s victory. EFE