Venezuelan leader, excluded from US summit, arrives in Turkey

ISTANBUL– Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was welcomed to the Turkish capital on Wednesday as the Russian foreign minister, a key ally of the ostracized Latin American regime, was also visiting the city.

Maduro is on a Eurasian tour after being rebuffed by Washington, which decided not to invite him to the Summit of the Americas.

Turkey is one of the few places in the world – Russia and Iran are other friendly states – where Maduro is welcome amid US sanctions against his country.

Similarly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also faces travel restrictions due to his country’s war against Ukraine.

Lavrov arrived in Turkey, which like Russia borders the Black Sea, two days after NATO members Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro reportedly refused to allow his plane to cross their space air to reach Serbia.

His official duties in Ankara – a meeting with his Turkish counterpart – took place at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace just hours before Maduro arrived at the same location.

There was no official word on whether the two men met.

Turkey and Venezuela have deepened their ties in recent years, with trade reaching nearly $850 million, according to Erdogan. Venezuela’s gold trade with Turkey has increased as US sanctions have cut off other sources of income for Caracas.

Erdogan said in a press conference with Maduro that Turkey was against “unilateral” sanctions against Venezuela. “We will always stand with the friendly and brotherly people of Venezuela,” he said, adding that he hoped to visit Caracas next month.

Manduro thanked Turkey for its support during the COVID-19 pandemic and said the two countries had signed three agreements on banking, agriculture and tourism.

Earlier, Maduro laid a wreath at the grave of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk before heading to the palace, arriving in a limo escorted by ceremonial cavalry.

Erdogan was the first Turkish president to visit Venezuela in 2018 while Maduro has visited Turkey several times.

During one such stopover, Maduro and his wife were criticized for dining at the pricey steakhouse Salt Bae when many Venezuelans struggled with poverty.

The Summit of the Americas Regional Leaders Meeting in Los Angeles runs June 7-10. The governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua have been excluded by the United States.

Sharon P. Juarez