Washington 'disappointed' by Turkish support of Maduro: official

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has backed embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is facing a challenge from the opposition at home (AFP Photo/Yuri CORTEZ)

Istanbul (AFP) - The United States is "disappointed" with Turkey's support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a senior US official said Thursday, after Washington backed a bid by the South American's country's opposition to remove the leader from office.

Washington and a dozen Latin American nations quickly recognised Venezuela's National Assembly leader Juan Guaido after he declared himself acting president on January 23.

The opposition contents the legitimacy of the election Maduro won in May, which is also not recognised by the US, the European Union and a large part of the international community.

Guaido is moving to marshal international support to form a transitional government to hold new presidential elections, with a new vote supported by the Washington, Europe and much of Latin America.

But Maduro has rejected this, insisting his term ends in 2025.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave his support to Maduro over the telephone last week, urging him to "keep his head up".

The senior American official, who requested anonymity, told journalists that "we believe strongly that the last remaining legitimate democratic institution is Guaido, who we've recognised as interim president."

"But that is not the view of the Turkish government and we are disappointed by that," the official said.

"We have talked to the Turks like we've talked to an awful lot of governments in the world, sharing our perspective and asking them to join us in acknowledging the illegitimacy of the Maduro regime.

"They have not responded positively to that conversation thus far," the official added.

The official also warned that Washington is looking at trade between Ankara and Caracas, especially gold exports to Turkey, to see if any American sanctions on Venezuela have been violated.

"We are looking at the nature of Turkish-Venezuelan commercial activity and if we assess a violation of our sanctions, we will obviously take action."

Venezuela exported nearly 900 million euros ($1,000) worth of gold to Turkey last year, according to reports.

In mid-January, the two countries agreed to increase such exports under an agreement to refine Venezuelan gold at a plant in the city of Corum, near Ankara.