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Venezuela and Guyana agreed to avoid the use of force as they tried to settle a century-old territorial dispute that recently saw Venezuela threaten Guyana with annexing two-thirds of its territory.
The presidents of Venezuela and Guyana met for talks at a Caribbean island and declared they "will not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstances," France 24 reported.
The two failed, however, to reach an agreement on jurisdiction over the dispute. Guyana upholds the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, which ruled in its favor regarding the ownership of the disputed Essequibo area. Venezuela has refused to accept the ruling and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICJ over the issue.
The dispute between the two neighbors dates back to the late 19th century when an arbitration court gave control of the territory to Guyana. The dispute flared up as the U.S. lifted oil sanctions on Caracas temporarily in a bid to increase the supply of heavy crude for Gulf Coast refineries.
Venezuela held a referendum in early December regarding its claim of sovereignty over Essequibo and the majority voted in favor. This sparked worry about a possible invasion and indeed Venezuelan troops were amassed by the border with Guyana. Urgent diplomatic efforts followed, leading to the Thursday talks between the heads of state.
Meanwhile, however, Venezuela is looking to revive an offshore natural gas field close to the maritime border with Guyana amid an escalating territorial dispute after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held a referendum to claim two-thirds of Guyana's territory. Observers have also argued that it is the oil and gas riches of the Essequibo region that the Maduro government is zeroing in on.
Maduro and Guyana’s Irfaan Ali agreed to meet again in three months, this time in Brazil, to renew their talks on the disputed region.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com