Feb 21 (Reuters) -

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has conveyed his "great respect" to the Guyana President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday, signaling a decrease in tensions over an area where Guyana is developing large oil and gas reserves.

Diplomatic talks between the two countries started in December. That month, a Venezuelan referendum backed a move to incorporate Essequibo, the area where Guyana is developing large oil and gas reserves.

Maduro met Guyana's Ambassador Richard Van West-Charles in Caracas on Tuesday, according to a statement from Guyana.

"President Maduro requested ambassador Van West-Charles to convey a message of high regard to President Ali, stating his great respect for the President and the people of Guyana," the statement said.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is hearing a case on the border dispute. (Reporting by Sabrina Valle; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)