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UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed a Norwegian diplomat who dealt with the Colombian peace process to try to settle the longstanding border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana by the end of the year.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced the appointment of Dag Halvor Nylander on Monday, saying he has "a strengthened mandate of mediation."

If Guterres concludes that no significant progress has been made by Dec. 31, Dujarric said he'll refer the issue to the International Court of Justice, unless both governments request him not to do so.

The dispute has its origins in the "Arbitral Award of 1899," a decision on the frontier between Venezuela and what is now Guyana. Venezuela contends the decision is null and void and claims about 40 percent of Guyana's territory.

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