Diplomatic teams from Venezuela and Guyana are to discuss Thursday in Brazil the dispute over the oil-rich Essequibo area in control of the latter since the 1890s.
Venezuela claims the Essequibo -which makes up about two-thirds of Guyanese territory- had been a part of its territory since 1777, when it was part of the Spanish empire, with the Essequibo River as a natural borderline.
Thursday's meeting was called after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart Irfaan Ali ruled out resorting to force at a crisis summit in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines last month in the so-called Argyle Declaration.
The Essequibo dispute has been brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, but Caracas claims it lacks jurisdiction.
The controversy resurfaced in 2015 after US energy giant ExxonMobil discovered huge crude reserves in the area. It escalated last year after Georgetown started auctioning off oil blocks in the region.
Maduro's government then called a controversial, non-binding referendum that overwhelmingly approved the creation of a Venezuelan province in Essequibo, sparking fears of a military conflict fueled by joint US-Guyana military drills in addition to the arrival of a Royal Navy unit to side with the former British colony, thus triggering a defensive military deployment in response.
President Irfaan Ali told AFP in Georgetown that the meeting was an important step towards fulfilling the December agreement, which foresees the creation of a commission to look at all the consequential matters.
It gives us now the opportunity to outline the agenda with items that both sides would want to speak on... issues of trade, climate, energy security, initiatives to expand our trade, he added.
On his arrival in Brasilia, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said that the meeting removed any possibility of conflict beyond the territorial controversy we have. Gil will be meeting with Guyana’s delegation headed by fellow Foreign Minister Hugh Hilton Todd.
Brazil, which has common borders with both countries and is acting as a mediator, welcomed the engagement of Guyana and Venezuela in the ongoing dialogue process in a statement announcing Thursday's meeting.
According to local media in Georgetown, Guyana remains fully committed to the principles of the Argyle Declaration in particular the maintenance of peace in Latin America and the Caribbean.