Venezuelan foreign minister visits Beirut, set to meet Hezbollah leader
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Venezuelan foreign minister visits Beirut, set to meet Hezbollah leader

Envoy of embattled Venezuelan president holds talks with Lebanese president, PM before heading to Syria

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, (left), shakes hands with his Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, in Beirut, April 3, 2014. (Dalati Nohra via AP)
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, (left), shakes hands with his Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil, in Beirut, April 3, 2014. (Dalati Nohra via AP)

Venezuela’s foreign minister Jorge Arreaza arrived in Beirut Wednesday for a series of meetings with Lebanese officials.

Arreaza met with Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun and his counterpart Gebran Bassil.

The envoy of embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro is expected to also meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and Lebanese prime minister Sa’ad Hariri before traveling onward to Syri, according to Beirut-based Naharnet.

Maduro’s government has warm relations with Syria and its allies in Lebanon, though Beirut also enjoys ties and military aid from Washington.

The US, Israel and much of the West have backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has pushed for Maduro’s ouster.

One of two Russian air force planes that arrived in Venezuela with troops and equipment at Simon Bolivar International Airport on March 28, 2019 in Maiquetia, Venezuela. (YURI CORTEZ / AFP)

Russia, a major backer of Syria, and China, which has invested heavily in Venezuela’s oil industry, both back Maduro.

Last weekend, a Russian aircraft carrying military officials and equipment arrived in Caracas and is believed to have flown via Syria, according to Flightradar24, a flight-tracking site.

Russian officials have scoffed at US demands to withdraw military personnel, saying their presence in Venezuela is fully legitimate.

In December, Russia sent two Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela for several days in a demonstration of support for Maduro, who has rejected demands from the United States and dozens of other countries that he resign.

“We have had cooperation, military and technical cooperation with Russia for almost 17 years, and it’s just developing as it should,” Arreaza said. “The only interference we have had for 20 years, every day of every week of every month of every year, is from the United States.”

Arreaza said that Guaidó is in breach of the constitution and that the judiciary has to “take care” of it.

Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president, speaks at a meeting at a university in Caracas, Venezuela, April 1, 2019. (AP/Natacha Pisarenko)

Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly, loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, has stripped Guaidó of his immunity, putting him at risk of arrest for supposedly violating the constitution when he declared himself interim president in January.

“He is in breach of most part of the constitution, so the judiciary has to take care of those who violated the Venezuelan law,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters in Beirut.

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