Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido talks during a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires. Picture: Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Brussels - The European Union has warned the Venezuelan government not to arrest opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is seeking to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

"Any measure that could put at risk Juan Guaidó's freedom, safety or personal integrity would represent a major escalation of tensions and meet the firm condemnation of the international community," the EU'S top diplomat, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said.

"The members of National Assembly enjoy constitutionally granted immunity that needs to be fully respected," she wrote in a statement issued on behalf of EU member states on Saturday.

The opposition-dominated National Assembly is headed by Guaido, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela on January 23 in response to dire conditions in the country, whose economy has been in free fall for years.

Lawmakers "should be able to exercise their parliamentary mandate free of intimidation on them or their family members," Mogherini added.

She was responding to statements from Maduro that Guaido, who is currently touring South American states to rally support, could be arrested upon arriving back in his home country for violating a Supreme Court order.

The young opposition leader already has the backing of the United States, as well as numerous countries in Latin America and Europe. Maduro, on the other hand, is supported by China, Russia and his allies Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

The EU is pushing for a political solution to the crisis in the form of fresh elections.

dpa