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Russia ‘ready’ to mediate in Venezuela peace efforts

Russia is ready to participate in international efforts regarding the settlement of the Venezuelan crisis, the country’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

However, all initiatives for mediation must be impartial, Sergey Lavrov told a news conference following a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed al-Hakim.

“We are ready to participate in international efforts in formats acceptable to the Venezuelan parties,” he said.

Lavrov welcomed the willingness of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to start the dialogue with the country’s opposition, and called on the latter to “abandon the ultimatums and act independently.”

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycott by the opposition.

Last week, Juan Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, declared himself acting president, a move immediately supported by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Brazil and the Organization of American States recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s leader prior to his formal announcement. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay have followed suit.

Bolivia and Mexico continue to recognize Maduro. Several South American countries, Russia, Turkey, China, and Iran have also expressed solidarity with Maduro.

Iraq has no plan of military op in Euphrates region

For his part, al-Hakim said the country will continue its fight against terrorism in the region, including in Syria.

But Baghdad does not plan to launch any military operation in the Euphrates region, the Iraqi top diplomat said.

Al-Hakim said: “We are conducting limited air and land operations in coordination with the Syrian side. We do not plan to introduce our forces on the territory to the east of the Euphrates, but surely we will continue to work to destroy the remains of Daesh.”

On the deployment of the U.S. troops in Iraq, he said it was done “to ensure the country’s security.”

Russia respects Iraq’s right to decide how it provides its own security, Lavrov stressed, adding:

“We expect that the U.S. presence in Iraq will meet the stated goals, namely, the fight against terrorism and assistance to the Iraqi government in stabilizing the situation, and not to solve geopolitical problems in this region.”

The minister also voiced concern about the start of the W76-2 warhead production in the U.S.

He said the production of these kinds of weapons increases the risks of nuclear conflict.

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