President Nicolas Maduro
President Nicolas Maduro AFP

Caracas on Monday slammed a six-month renewal of European Union sanctions against it, and said the move precluded the bloc from participating in Venezuelan "political processes" ahead of elections next year.

The EU has had sanctions against Venezuela, including an arms embargo and a travel ban and assets freeze for dozens of officials, since November 2017 -- reviewed annually.

On Monday, the European Council said in a statement it had decided "exceptionally to extend its restrictive measures for six months only instead of one year, until 14 May 2024."

The foreign ministry in Caracas hit back in a statement, calling the measure "arrogant and illegal" and accusing the block of interference in its internal affairs.

Caracas is under investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for alleged crimes against humanity over its response to protests in 2017 against President Nicolas Maduro -- whose subsequent re-election in 2018 was not recognized by several countries, including EU members.

Last month, Maduro's government and opposition agreed to hold elections next year and allow observers, including from the EU -- an announcement that prompted the United States to ease some oil and gas sanctions.

But since then, Caracas has rejected the outcome of an opposition primary to choose Maduro's rival, prompting international criticism and raising doubts about the likelihood of a free and fair poll.

In its statement, the EU Council welcomed the Barbados agreement as "a positive and necessary step... towards the restoration of democracy in Venezuela" and said it had taken this into account in deciding to shorten the next review period.

"The Council is willing to take steps and consider the easing or reversal of restrictive measures depending on the evolution of the situation," it added.

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