The Top United Nations political official told the Security Council on Saturday that dialogue and cooperation were vital to ending the crisis in Venezuela.

"We must try to help bring about a political solution that will allow the country's citizens to enjoy peace, prosperity and all their human rights," said Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, during her briefing to an emergency meeting of the 15-member Security Council on the situation in Venezuela.

The meeting was mainly requested by the United States and some other countries in the wake of days of crisis in Venezuela marked by popular protests that erupted on Wednesday after the leader of the legislature, Juan Guaido, declared himself "interim president," a direct challenge to President Nicolas Maduro, who had been sworn in to a second term in office just two weeks earlier.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to "lower tensions" in the South American country and called on all relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue.

Concerned by reports of casualties in the context of demonstrations and unrest in and around the capital Caracas, the UN chief also called for a transparent and independent investigation into those incidents.

Recalling that the UN secretary-general had offered his good offices to help resolve the crisis, DiCarlo stressed at Saturday's meeting that the main concern is the well-being of the Venezuelan people and their ability to enjoy their full rights.

DiCarlo's call for cooperation and dialogue was echoed by many of the Security Council's 15 members during the contentious debate that followed her briefing. Speakers for the United States and Russia sparred over the path to end the crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the UN to recognize Guaido as Venezuela's "interim president" and declared "now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem."

Russia's UN Ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, rejected that view, saying the United States was imposing its own "approaches and recipes" to resolve the problems on the ground in Venezuela. "This meeting is yet another attempt by the United States to affect regime change and (the Russian Federation) regrets that the UN Security Council has been drawn into such an unethical ploy," he said.

Ma Zhaoxu, China's permanent representative to the UN, said that China opposes foreign interference in Venezuela's affairs. "China always opposes interference in other countries' internal affairs and opposes foreign interference in Venezuela's affairs," he said.

Noting that "maintaining stability and development in Venezuela serves the interests of all relevant parties," Ma said that "we hope all parties can contribute more to Venezuela's stability."