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Venezuela and Guyana agreed this week to refrain from the use of force over the oil-rich territory of Essequibo, a long-running dispute that has raised fears of a potential conflict breaking out in South America, CNBC reported.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart, Irfaan Ali, reached the agreement following a tense meeting in the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Both presidents affirmed their commitments in an 11-point declaration, in which they agreed to “not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstances, including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two states” and to “refrain, whether by words or deeds, from escalating any conflict,” Al Jazeera added.
Even so, the meeting did not make any progress in resolving the dispute. Representatives of both countries are planning to meet in Brazil within the next three months to resolve any outstanding issues.
The issue centers on the contested territory of Essequibo, a 61,600-square-mile area – about two-thirds of Guyana – that Venezuela alleges was stolen when the border was drawn more than a hundred years ago.
Caracas says the area is part of its territory because of its historical inclusion in its boundaries during the Spanish colonial period. It rejects an 1899 ruling by international arbitrators that established the current border between the two South American nations.
Observers said that Venezuela revived its claim to the land following the discovery in 2015 of oil off the territory’s coast.
Earlier in the month, Venezuela held a referendum on whether to establish a state in Essequibo, a move that Guyana described as a step toward annexation.
Despite the low turnout, most voters voted in favor of incorporating the region into Venezuela. Soon after, Maduro ordered state-owned companies to explore and exploit the oil, gas, and minerals to be mined in Essequibo.
Both countries have also put their armies on alert.