CARACAS (Reuters) – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Caracas on Tuesday as his country delivered medical equipment to help crisis-stricken Venezuela deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Turkey has been one of the key backers of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has overseen a six-year economic crisis in the once-prosperous OPEC nation but has so far withstood an 18-month effort by the United States to oust him through sanctions on the country’s oil sector.
“Neither sanctions, nor a blockade, nor any type of situation will prevent us from deepening our economic and commercial relationships,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in a state television broadcast after meeting with Cavusoglu.
As tensions between Caracas and Washington have grown in recent years, Turkey has deepened economic ties with Venezuela, exporting products for a state-run food distribution program and purchasing the South American country’s gold.
Cavosoglu also met with Maduro and Vice President Delcy Rodriguez. He said the plane he arrived on had also brought medical equipment, including rapid tests to detect COVID-19.
Venezuela had reported 34,802 cases of the virus as of Monday, below levels elsewhere in South America even as the number of positive tests has been increasing rapidly in recent weeks.
(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Tom Brown)