The U.S. envoy to Venezuela secretly met with the country’s foreign minster in New York, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday.
The secret talks between Elliott Abrams and Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza took place as the Trump administration sought to oust Maduro, Maduro said in an interview with the Associated Press.
The pair had two meetings that lasted several hours, he said, and Arreaza invited Abrams to come to Venezuela “privately, publicly or secretly.”
Two senior Venezuelan officials told the AP that the meetings came at the request of the U.S. During the first, on Jan. 26, the U.S. threatened to deploy troops to the South American country. The two met again this week, four days after Abrams said the “time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed.”
In the meeting Monday, Abrams told the foreign minister that severe U.S. sanctions would eventually end up removing Maduro.
President Trump said last month, just days before the first meeting, that he was recognizing Maduro’s political opponent, Juan Guaido, as president of Venezuela.
The Trump administration put pressure on Maduro to step aside a few weeks into his second term that the U.S. and its allies see as illegitimate.