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US and Venezuela hold key diplomatic meeting

A US envoy has met Venezuela's second most powerful official in Haiti in a further sign of normalizing of relations. The talks took place in Port-au-Prince.

Venezuela and the United States were reportedly working toward improving their damaged relationship. Both sides were seen to have lowered the tone in recent weeks ahead of a crucial meeting earlier this week.

The meeting took place in Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince to discuss shared interests between the two countries, including their mutual support for Haiti's upcoming parliamentary elections as well as the country's reconstruction and development following numerous natural disasters.

Venezuela was represented at the talks by Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello. The US meanwhile sent Thomas Shannon, a veteran diplomat and adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry, and Pamela White, the US ambassador to Haiti.

Rodriguez said that the 90-minute meeting could serve to be a stepping stone in stabilizing liaisons between the two nations. "We held a working meeting in Haiti with Tom Shannon and the US delegation en route to normalizing relations," Rodriguez tweeted.

Venezuela's parliamentary president Diosdado Cabello

Cabello has been denying allegations of drug trafficking

The meeting came after reports surfaced in US media saying that

Washington was investigating Cabello

over his alleged involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering activities. Cabello, who is widely regarded as the “Number two man” in Venezuela, denied the allegations.

Earlier in the year, the United States had declared Venezuela a national security threat, ordering sanctions against seven officials, who Washington had accused of corruption and rights abuses. But the move came as part of a tit-for-tat diplomacy campaign after

Venezuela had accused Washington of plotting a coup

.

Venezuelan authorities then ordered the US embassy in Caracas to reduce staff numbers while

imposing a new visa requirement on US visitors

in March. However, the order to cut 80 percent of staff from the embassy was never enforced.

Despite efforts to improve affairs between the two states, neither state has had an ambassador to the other country since 2010. Relations between the United States and Venezuela have been icy since Hugo Chavez became president of the OPEC nation in 1999. After Chavez's death in 2013, an air of rapprochment seems to have replaced the erstwhile bellicose rhetoric between the two states, but disagreements continue to flare up.

Venezuela remains the fourth biggest crude oil provider to the United States.

ss/bw (dpa, Reuters)

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