President Emmanuel Macron took to twitter Monday morning to recognise Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.
"Venezuelans have the right to express themselves freely and democratically," he tweeted. "France recognises @jguaido as 'interim president' to put elections into place."
Les Vénézuéliens ont le droit de s’exprimer librement et démocratiquement. La France reconnaît @jguaido comme « président en charge » pour mettre en œuvre un processus électoral. Nous soutenons le Groupe de contact, créé avec l’UE, dans cette période de transition.Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 4, 2019
Macron firmed up comments made earlier on Monday by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
"Faced with President Maduro’s refusal to organise presidential elections which would clarify, calm the situation in Venezuela … we consider that Mr Guaido has the capacity and the legitimacy to organise these elections," Le Drian told French public radio.
"It is imperative the conflict is resolved peacefully and civil war avoided."
Recognition of Guaido after failure to meet ultimatum
France joins Germany, Spain, Britain, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and Lithuania in recognising Guaido after an ultimatum for President Nicolas Maduro's government to call a new presidential election expired on midnight Sunday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Japan on Monday that Guaido "is the legitimate interim president."
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters in Madrid on Monday that he recognised Guaido as “president of Venezuela’s assembly" and that they "were working for the return of full democracy in Venezuela: human rights, elections and no more political prisoners".
Meanwhile Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told Swedish broadcaster SVT the vote that brought Maduro to power was not a "free and fair election."
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted that the “UK alongside European allies now recognises @jguaido as interim constitutional president until credible elections can be held. Let’s hope this takes us closer to ending humanitarian crisis.”
Russia denounces foreign meddling
Maduro still has the backing of Russia, China and Turkey, and the support of the Venezuelan military top brass.
Russia, a major investor in Venezuela in recent years, has urged restraint.
In a statement on Monday, the Kremlin said European moves to legitimise Guaido’s “illegal attempt” to seize power amounted to foreign meddling.
The Chinese Government announced last week its desire to continue working with Caracas “no matter how the situation evolves”, suggesting China might be preparing for a future without the socialist leader.
Lima Group to meet
Opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s legitimate ruler on 23 January and has the support of Washington.
Maduro has said Europe's ruling elite are sycophantically following US President Donald Trump's agenda.
The 14-nation Lima Group – made up of Canada and Latin American countries – meets in Ottawa on Monday. Eleven of its members have recognised Guaido.