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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Membe: no quick fix to border crisis in Lake Nyasa

Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Membe on Saturday ruled out any "quick fix" in negotiations over a border dispute with Malawi.
"It's not a rush to negotiated settlement. There is no quick fix to negotiated settlement," Membe told a bilateral ministerial meeting on the dispute over Lake Malawi, where Lilongwe has awarded an oil exploration license to a British firm.
"It is a long way with corners, sometimes with sharp corners, but we must negotiate through and we negotiate because we want a solution," he said. "This is a serious business that requires serious minds."
Technical experts from the two countries wrapped up five days of talks on Friday over a long-ignored dispute that has assumed new importance with the prospect of oil revenues in the region.
The experts presented their recommendations to the ministers but a final decision rests with the countries' two presidents.
"Each side has a serious case. If you think that the other side has no serious case, that is self-deception," Membe said.
Surestream of Britain has won the right to explore for oil in northeastern waters near Tanzania, a largely undeveloped swath of Lake Malawi.
Malawi claims ownership of the entire lake under an 1890 agreement -- whose validity is disputed by Tanzania.
Membe said: "Neighbours must endure, neighbours must always remain neighbours, and we are here because of differences in positions."
He said whatever the outcome of the negotiations, "the basis must be scientific for generations to come."
Membe's Malawian counterpart Ephraim Mganda Chiume, for his part, advocated a "quick solution" on the 50-year-old dispute.
"This issue has been going on for too long. ... It has brought tension among our people and the feeling is that we should resolve it for our people to continue to co-exist in peace."
He appealed for "amicable discussions and hopefully we should come up with a long-lasting and amicable solution."

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