Mon May 15, 2017 01:01PM
Demonstrators clash with riot police during a march against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on May 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Demonstrators clash with riot police during a march against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on May 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

European Union (EU) foreign ministers have called on the government and the opposition in Venezuela to abstain from violence and seek a peaceful solution to the clashes on the streets, which have left nearly 40 people killed.

"Violence and the use of force will not resolve the crisis in the country," said a statement by EU foreign ministers after their meeting in Brussels on Monday.

The statement added that all sides in Venezuela needed to work towards a settlement, which would allow "the establishment of an electoral calendar."

At least 38 people have been killed in protests and street clashes between followers and opponents of President Nicolas Maduro.

The protesters have demanded a snap election, saying Maduro should immediately leave office as he has been unable to find a solution to the oil-rich country’s economic woes. Maduro insists that the Western-backed opposition is using a global slump in oil prices to heap pressure on his administration.

A firefighter puts out a fire after a bus was burnt down during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on May 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The EU urged Venezuela’s government to allow peaceful protests in the country.   

"The fundamental rights of the Venezuelan people must be respected, including the right to peacefully demonstrate,” said the EU statement, adding that an alleged government decision to "expand and further strengthen armed civilian groups is worrying as it can fuel further violence and does not contribute to a solution.”

The EU also said that it was ready to cooperate with Caracas to ensure the protection and security of more than 600,000 European citizens in Venezuela.

Protests in Venezuela started on April 1 when the opposition criticized a move by the powerful, pro-government Supreme Court to dismiss parliament members from its board. The court later withdrew the decision but protests turned into a massive call for Maduro’s removal from office.

Reports say that dozens have also been injured during the protests.