Turkey pledges support for Venezuela, U.S. mulls secondary sanctions

Updated with U.S. national security adviser John Bolton's statement

Turkey “regrets” U.S. envoy Elliot Abrams’s statements on its relationship with Venezuela and “is against attempts to replace legitimate governments through foreign intervention,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said on Friday, a day after Abrams criticised Turkey for supporting the Venezuelan government.

Shortly after the Turkish foreign ministry published Aksoy's statement, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, told Reuters TV the president was considering secondary sanctions for countries that do business with Maduro.

Bolton said the United States was moving towards secondary sanctions to cut revenues to Maduro's government, Reuters reported. “We are even now looking at a series of additional steps we could take,” Bolton said.

Abrams, Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, told reporters on Thursday he had asked Turkey to stop cooperating with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The envoy criticised Turkey for its “strong support” of Maduro, which includes investment in the Latin American country and involvement in its gold trade, raising suspicions the Turkish government is helping Caracas evade U.S. sanctions.

For its part, the Turkish government has condemned U.S. support for Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader who declared himself interim president earlier this year.

“Turkey, like many countries, recognizes Maduro Government, which came to power through elections, as the legitimate government of the country in accordance with international law and as represented in the UN,” Aksoy’s statement said.

“Turkey is against attempts to replace legitimate governments through foreign intervention and by resorting to undemocratic means. Besides, Turkey conducts its trade with Venezuela in accordance with international trade regulations and in a transparent way,” the statement continued.

Guaidó's declaration in January led to a host of international calls for Maduro to hold new elections or step down, as well as forceful statements from Trump demanding the end of the Maduro administration.

Aksoy’s statement said Turkey would continue its friendly relations with Maduro’s government “on the basis of mutual respect, friendship and interest.”