Venezuelan leader, barred from US summit, arrives in Turkey

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ISTANBUL (AP) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was welcomed in the Turkish capital on Wednesday just as the foreign minister of Russia, 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 a handful of places around the world – Russia and Iran are other friendly states – where Maduro is welcome amid U.S. sanctions on his country.

Similarly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also faces travel restrictions due to his country’s war on 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 fly through their airspace 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 venue.

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

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

Erdogan told a news conference with Maduro that Turkey was against the “one-sided” sanctions on 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 tomb of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk before traveling to the palace, arriving in a limousine escorted by ceremonial cavalry.

Erdogan was the first Turkish president to visit Venezuela in 2018 while Maduro has traveled to Turkey on several occasions.

During one such stopover Maduro and his wife were criticized for dining in the expensive Salt Bae steak restaurant while many Venezuelans were struggling with poverty.

The Summit of the Americas meeting of regional leaders in Los Angeles is taking place June 7-to-10. The governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua have been excluded from it by the United States.