Guyana, Venezuela presidents set to meet on border row

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart, Irfaan Ali, will meet Thursday on their countries' growing dispute over the oil-rich region of Essequibo, amid mounting international warnings against escalating the row.

The meeting will be held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, according to the Caribbean country's Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had also been invited at both sides' request.

Gonsalves, whose country currently chairs the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said in a letter to Maduro and Ali that the meeting would be held under the auspices of that organization and another regional body, the Caribbean Community.

There is an "urgent need to de-escalate the conflict and institute an appropriate dialogue, face-to-face," Gonsalves said.

"Both of you have concurred with this assessment in the quest of peaceful coexistence, the application and respect of international law, and the avoidance of the use or threats of force."

Tension has soared over Essequibo, which has historically been controlled by Guyana, since Maduro's government held a controversial referendum last weekend in which 95 percent of voters supported declaring Venezuela its rightful owner, according to official results.

The United States, Britain, Russia and South American countries have all urged de-escalation and a peaceful solution.

The United Nations Security Council held a closed-door meeting Friday on the spiraling dispute, which is also the subject of litigation before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Ali and Maduro voiced sharply conflicting views of the meeting.

Maduro, the hand-picked successor who took over from late...

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