Greece backs Bolivian leader's call for Venezuela dialogue

Bolivian President Evo Morales, center, and Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, take part in a conference in Athens, Thursday, March 14, 2019. Morales is in Greece on a two-day official visit. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, shakes hands with Bolivia's President Evo Morales after their press conference at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Friday, March 15, 2019. Bolivia's left-wing president on Thursday compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to an erstwhile colonial viceroy and spoke out against any military intervention in the troubled country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, welcomes Bolivia's President Evo Morales at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Friday, March 15, 2019. Bolivia's left-wing president on Thursday compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to an erstwhile colonial viceroy and spoke out against any military intervention in the troubled country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a press conference with Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Friday, March 15, 2019. Bolivia's left-wing president on Thursday compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to an erstwhile colonial viceroy and spoke out against any military intervention in the troubled country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece — Greece on Friday backed calls by Bolivia's left-wing President Evo Morales for a negotiated settlement to the severe political and financial crisis in Venezuela, in what marks a different approach to that pursued by key European allies.

Many European Union countries are among 50 nations, including the United States, which are backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido against embattled President Nicolas Maduro. Those EU countries want a presidential election to resolve Venezuela's problems.

But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' Syriza party has friendly ties with left-wing parties in South America and has expressed support for Maduro.

Morales met with Tsipras in Athens on a rare trip to Europe, and called on the Greek prime minister to press the EU to push for talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition as a way out of the crisis.

"I have expressed by serious concern at the situation in Venezuela, with the deepening financial and humanitarian crisis," Tsipras said. "The only option in the coming days is a dialogue involving all sides — from the government and the opposition — to sit at the same negotiating table and avoid an the escalation of the crisis and possibility a bloody civil conflict."

A senior government official in Athens told The Associated Press that Greece did not have a "front seat" in international negotiations involving Venezuela but was pressing other EU countries to insist in trying to reach a negotiated settlement. The official, who spoke ahead of Morales' visit, asked not to be named pending official statements.

Late Thursday, Morales accused Guaido of acting like a colonial-era "viceroy," and criticized the support he has received from the U.S.

"We do not agree with this outside interference ... solutions must be found inside the country," he said Friday.

Referring to Tsipras as "brother Alexis," Morales said he was seeking Greek support in often-troubled trade negotiations between the EU and South American countries and said his government would receive advice from experts in Athens to try and emulate Greece's "tourism miracle."

Last year, more than 30 million tourists visited Greece, a country with a population of 10.7 million.

Both Tsipras and Morales are seeking re-election this year and promised to work to broaden international cooperation between left-wing parties.

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Iliana Mier in Athens and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki contributed. Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos

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