LILONGWE/DAR ES SALAAM, The dispute between Malawi and Tanzania over ownership of Lake Nyasa is turning into a fully fledged diplomatic row, with Lilongwe now threatening to go to The Hague.

Malawi accuses Dar Es Salaam of sabotaging dialogue on the matter. Tanzania, on May 4, asked for postponement of the mediation talks slated for May 8-9 to host South African President Jacob Zuma.

Last week, Malawi's Foreign Minister Francis Kasaila said his country is preparing to take Tanzania to The Hague-based International Criminal Court over the matter.

Malawi and Tanzania have been engaged in a dispute over the ownership of Lake Nyasa (also known as Lake Malawi). Lilongwe says the boundary is the shoreline of the lake as established by Article 1(2) of the 1890 Anglo-German Treaty, hence the lake belongs to Malawi.

Dar es Salaam on its side says the boundary is the median line of the lake based on principles of customary international law -- the same principle used in sharing of lakes Tanganyika and Victoria.

The two countries have different maps with Malawi showing it owns the entire lake while Tanzania puts a boundary in the middle of the water body.

Tanzanian Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Dr Aziz Mlima told The EastAfrican that Lilongwe has not shared any communication with Dar es Salaam concerning the matter.

Dr Mlima said information about the mediation meeting was shared in early May when the ministry's technical team was preparing to meet South African experts ahead of President Jacob Zuma's visit to the country.

"We ask for postponement because we would not be able to attend the mediation on the same dates that we had planned another meeting in Dar es Salaam... but we are ready to convene any time the meeting is called," he said.

The High Level Mediation Meeting (HLMT) was scheduled for Johannesburg on May 8-9 before Tanzania asked for postponement which irked the Malawi side.

The HLMT convened the first mediation talks on March 20-21, 2014, in Maputo, Mozambique, where Malawi and Tanzania submitted their respective positions.

Oil exploration

Dr Mlima said the SADC-brokered mediation meeting led by Mozambican former President Joachim Chisano has not failed to mediate and called on Malawi to give room for the wisdom of the mediation team to prevail before embarking on court action. President Chissano as chairman, and also includes ex-South African president Thabo Mbeki and ex-Botswana leader Festus Mogae.

Malawi media last week quoted Tanzania Ambassador in Lilongwe Victoria Mwakasege saying her country would like to share oil resources which Malawi has discovered in the lake.

The Lake Nyasa dispute started in the 1960s but has taken new vigour recently amid news that Malawi awarded licenses to various companies to search for oil and gas on the lake. �