Italy's Salvini calls Guaido after meeting Venezuela delegation

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini reiterated Italy's ports were "closed" to new migrant arrivals (AFP Photo/Tiziana FABI)

Rome (AFP) - Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini spoke by phone with Venezuela's Juan Guaido on Monday after meeting with an opposition delegation he sent from the crisis-hit Latin American nation, his spokesman said.

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, had a "friendly" conversation with Guaido in which he expressed his "total support" for free elections, later saying they should happen "as soon as possible".

Guaido, who heads Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly, last month declared himself interim president, sparking a standoff with beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro.

He has so far been recognised as Venezuela's interim president by some 50 countries, although Italy is one of the few EU states yet to do so.

During the conversation, Salvini acknowledged Italy's populist government was still divided over the matter even though Rome never recognised Maduro's reelection in May 2018 following a vote which was disputed by the opposition and overseas.

Salvini agreed to see the Venezuelan delegation after Guaido wrote to him requesting that they present him with details of the "action plan to relaunch democracy in Venezuela through free and fair elections".

"I see it as my duty to welcome a delegation from the Venezuelan parliament which is the only legitimate entity in power at this moment given that the apparent president, Maduro, has never been recognised as such by the international community," Salvini said.

The Venezuelan delegation includes a number of senior National Assembly figures such as Francisco Sucre, who heads the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, and Rodrigo Diamanti, its European representative for humanitarian aid.