CARACAS, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Venezuela and Guyana have agreed to restore their respective ambassadors, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday, a first step toward easing tensions that flared after the discovery of oil off the coast of a disputed territory.
Maduro withdrew his country’s ambassador to Guyana in July after demanding a halt to exploration by Exxon Mobil Corp off the region known as the Essequibo, and in September halted accreditation for Guyana’s ambassador to Venezuela.
“We have agreed to name ambassadors,” Maduro said following a meeting with Guyana’s President David Granger and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York.
“In the case of Venezuela we will be returning our ambassador immediately to the Co-operative Republic of Guyana,” he said in comments broadcast over state television.
Exxon in May said it found oil in the Stabroek Block under a license granted by Guyana’s government. The company has declined to comment on the dispute.
The Essequibo, a sparsely populated region of thick jungle, encompasses an area equivalent to around two-thirds of Guyanese territory. It functions in practice as part of Guyana and shows little discernible trace of Venezuelan cultural influence.
Guyana says Caracas agreed to relinquish the Essequibo following a ruling by an international tribunal in 1899, but that Venezuela later backtracked on that decision.
Venezuela says the 1899 ruling was unfair and insists the territory is still in dispute. Maps in Venezuela usually describe the Essequibo as the “reclamation zone.” (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Eric Walsh)