DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania said on Saturday that neighboring Malawi had returned to talks aimed at resolving a border dispute over Lake Malawi that has soured relations and delayed exploration for oil and gas.
East Africa has become hot property for the oil industry since huge gas finds off the shores of Tanzania and Mozambique and oil strikes in Uganda and Kenya. Rich hydrocarbon deposits are believed to lie below Lake Malawi.
Malawi, which sits to the west of Africa's third-largest lake, claims the entire northern half of the lake while Tanzania, to the east, says it owns half of the northern area. The southern half is shared between Malawi and Mozambique.
Malawi angered Tanzania in 2011 when it awarded exploration licenses to UK-based Surestream Petroleum to search for oil in the disputed northern area.
Malawi pulled out of talks in October after it accused its neighbor of intimidating Malawi fishermen, an accusation denied by the Tanzanian government.
The talks are being mediated by Mozambique's former president Joachim Chissano.
Tanzania's Foreign Minister Bernard Membe confirmed to parliament that Malawi had returned to the negotiations.
"If the mediators advise us to move forward to the ICJ (International Court of Justice) for a permanent solution, Tanzania will not hesitate to do that," Membe said. "We have all kinds of evidence to ensure that we win this case."
(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Richard Lough and Tom Pfeiffer)