PARIS (AP) _ Senegal and Guinea Bissau agreed Wednesday on a mutual retreat from their common border to settle a maritime dispute that has reportedly left 17 soldiers dead, the Senegalese Embassy announced.

The two sides are arguing over who controls waters believed to contain oil deposits. The area is off the land border between the two West African nations.

Wednesday's settlement was reached by Foreign Minister Seydina Oumar Sy of Senegal and Finance Minister Col. Manuel Santos of Guinea Bissau during a meeting in Paris, the Senegalese Embassy said.

The meeting was held during a visit to Paris by Guinea Bissau's leader, Gen. Joao Bernardo Vieira. However, there was no immediate comment from Guinea Bissau.

The Senegalese Embassy statement said the two countries hope to ''find through dialogue peaceful solutions to all questions regarding their relations.''

The statement said the two nations' troops would be pulled back to a ''reasonable distance'' from the border.

The dispute over maritime borders dates from colonial times. Since Saturday, clashes on Guinea Bissau's northern land border have left at least 17 soldiers dead, according to news reports.

The disputed waters were confirmed as Senegalese territory in 1960 by an exchange of letters between Portugal and France, the colonial powers at the time.

However, Guinea Bissau challenged control of the zone when it gained independence from Portugal in 1974.

In 1989, Guinea Bissau rejected the verdict of an international court in Geneva, which found in favor of Senegal. It has taken its complaint to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.