'Advances' but no deal after Venezuela rivals talk

Venezuela's opposition representatives (L to R) Luis Aquiles Moreno, Luis Florido and Gustavo Velazquez attend a meeting with representatives of the Venezuelan government on December 2, 2017, aiming to resolve their country's crisis (AFP Photo/Erika SANTELICES) (afp/AFP)

Santo Domingo (AFP) - Venezuela's government and opposition made "significant advances" in the latest talks aimed at resolving the country's crushing economic and political crisis, they said Saturday after two days of meetings in the Dominican Republic.

But there was no agreement and negotiations will continue in Santo Domingo on December 15, the two sides said in a statement read by Dominican President Danilo Medina.

He hosted the talks with fellow mediator and former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

"Government and opposition declare that there have been significant advances in the search for an agreement," their statement said.

It added that the meetings which began on Friday established "the firm will" to reach a deal.

Foreign ministers from Latin American nations acted as guarantors during the discussions.

Previous meetings hosted by Medina have failed to take the negotiations beyond preliminary discussions.

The main demand of the opposition coalition, Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD), is the opening of a "humanitarian corridor" to allow the import of desperately needed food and medicines to alleviate the worst of the economic crisis -- along with a guarantee of free and fair presidential elections next year.

The opposition is divided over the talks. Some in the coalition dismiss them as nothing more than an attempt by Maduro to buy time as he continues to consolidate power.

In addition to Mexico and Chile -- invited by the MUD -- Bolivia and Nicaragua joined the discussions as allies of Maduro.

The Venezuelan president is demanding the opposition work for the lifting of US sanctions which prohibit officials and entities of his government from negotiating new debt deals with US creditors.

He also wants the opposition-dominated parliament to get behind his plan to restructure Venezuela's foreign debt, estimated at $150 billion.

State oil giant PDVSA and Venezuela have been declared in selective default for failing to meet payments on certain bonds in time.