Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Following a year of pursuing a hard-line policy of isolation against Venezuela and its embattled President Nicolas Maduro, the Trump administration on Thursday called for negotiations to establish a transitional government to end its political crisis.
"A swift negotiated transition to democracy is the most effective and sustainable route to peace and prosperity in Venezuela," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "Negotiations could open the path out of the crisis through a transitional government that will organize free and fair elections."
The United States has been employing a hard-line approach to Venezuela, slapping it and those who aid the country with dozens of sanctions after Maduro's 2018 election was deemed illegitimate early last year. The Trump administration has thrown its support, along with more than 55 mostly Western countries, behind National Assembly head and self-appointed interim president Juan Guaido.
However, there was no mention of sanctions in the Thursday statement in which Pompeo called for both presidential and National Assembly elections to be held by year's end.
"[This year] presents the opportunity to provide the Venezuelan people with what they have been demanding for years: genuinely free and fair presidential and National Assembly elections to choose their leadership and begin the long process of renewal," he said.
Venezuela balked at the call for elections and condemned a supposed draft communique it says the United States is circulating to countries seeking support for its plan.
"We denounced the draft communique spread by the U.S. government in other countries to obtain international support to invest in the 2020 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS, changing its failed strategy of imposing presidential elections," Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in a statement.
In a separate statement, the State Department outlined conditions to establish elections to form the transitional government, including a new independent National Electoral Commission, selected through the National Assembly, and a newly constituted Supreme Court.
The elections must be open to all parties and candidates, including those who have fled the country, it said, calling for the release of all political prisoners as a condition as well as unrestricted access to independent news.
"The former Maduro regime must not be allowed to dictate the content of independent media actors," it said in the only mention of Maduro in either statement. "This includes allowing the exercise of the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression without repression, reprisal or politically motivated disruptions of service."
The United States, and its partners, will facilitate Venezuelans worldwide to exercise their right to vote, provide technical support and funding and provide independent electoral observes to work with the new electoral commission as soon as possible.
"Today, the international community reminds Venezuela of the conditions needed for free and fair elections there," Pompeo said on Twitter. "A swift negotiated transition to democracy is the most effective and sustainable route to peace and prosperity in Venezuela."
The call for elections came days after the Maduro regime attempted to usurp control of the National Assembly by swearing in its own assembly head while the military barred Guaido and opposition lawmakers from entering the building, forcing them to hold their own election in which Guaido was re-elected with a quorum. On Tuesday, Guaido was sworn in as leader of the National Assembly.