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Guyana, Venezuela Foreign Ministers set meeting date, venue

FLASH BACK: (Left) Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Elías Jaua and his Guyanese counterpart, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett

(REUTERS).-Venezuela’s and Guyana’s foreign ministers will meet on Thursday to seek a negotiated solution to the detention of a ship used by a U.S. oil exploration firm in waters disputed for more than a century by the South American neighbours, Venezuela said.

The officials have spoken on the phone and will meet on Thursday in Trinidad and Tobago “in the hope of resolving diplomatically whatever difference exists between both sides,” a Venezuelan government statement said.
There was no confirmation of the meeting from Guyana.

The government in Georgetown accused Venezuela on Friday of threatening its national security by evicting the RV Teknik Perdana survey boat, being used by Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp, from Guyanese waters.

Venezuela said the ship had violated its waters. Anadarko was not immediately available to comment.

Oil exploration has fanned the flames of the old territorial dispute, and the incident did not appear linked to the socialist Venezuelan government’s antipathy toward Washington. The United States and Venezuela have just expelled the others’ top diplomats.

The boat has been taken to the Venezuelan island of Margarita. Its Ukrainian captain Igor Bekirov was due to appear in court “in a few hours” to face charges of violating Venezuelan waters, local judicial authorities said.

Guyana awarded Anadarko Petroleum a deep-water, exploration license in June last year for a block named Roraima, although details of the concession have not been revealed.

Oil companies have been increasingly interested in the northeastern shoulder of South America since a discovery off nearby French Guyana in 2011 that industry experts described as a game-changer for the region’s energy prospects.

Venezuela and Guyana have long argued about the status of the disputed Essequibo region, an area on the border about the size of the U.S. state of Georgia, and over rights to the ocean resources that lie offshore. Venezuela calls it a “reclamation zone,” but in practice it functions as Guyanese territory.

Critics of President Nicolas Maduro, who replaced the late Hugo Chavez as Venezuela’s leader after winning an election earlier this year, say he is exploiting international incidents to try and distract attention from domestic woes.