International desk: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday spoke by phone with Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, passing on his best wishes after what Caracas said was a drone “assassination” bid backed by Colombia.
Erdogan, a close ally of Maduro, also wished well the soldiers wounded in the weekend incident, Turkish presidential sources said, without giving further details.
Maduro and Erdogan have cultivated an increasingly close relationship as Turkey’s ties with the West have frayed in recent months and Venezuela remains a foe of the United States.
The Venezuelan leader last month attended Erdogan’s inauguration in Ankara for a new presidential term, hailing him as a “friend of Venezuela and leader of the new multi-polar world.”
Maduro was also a surprise non-Muslim guest at a summit of Islamic leaders organised by Erdogan in December 2017 to denounce the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
A live broadcast of the weekend incident on Venezuelan state television showed Maduro interrupted in mid-speech by an explosion and looking up in confusion.
Dozens of soldiers on parade are then seen breaking ranks and running away in panic.
Maduro and his government said the president had been targeted by two flying drones carrying explosives. But details of the incident remain unclear, with conflicting information coming from various sources.
The Turkish foreign ministry had already said it was “deeply saddened” by the incident and said it was the “greatest consolation” that Maduro was unharmed.
“In this difficult time, Turkey stands with the brotherly and friendly Venezuelan people and President Maduro, his family and all government officials,” it said.
Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also told Maduro on Twitter: “Stay strong mi amigo.”
Erdogan earlier in Istanbul held talks with Venezuelan Minister of Industry and National Production Tareck El Aissami, the presidency said, without giving further details.
Maduro is also a big fan the popular Turkish historical television drama Dirilis Ertugrul about the origins of the Ottoman Empire and was taken to the set when he came to Turkey for Erdogan’s inauguration.