Malawi’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Etta Banda, has confirmed what President Bingu wa Mutharika said that the country had “initiated dialogue” with Britain aimed at defusing a diplomatic spat that has seen the countries expel each other’s envoys.

Mutharika expelled British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet after the publication of a leaked cable in which he criticised him for becoming “ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

Foreign Minister Ettah Banda: Malawi in dialogue with Britain

Britain, which has been Malawi’s largest donor for the last 47 years since the country became independent, retaliated by expelling the Malawian envoy and it is withholding aid to the impoverished nation, where half the 13 million citizens live on less than a dollar a day.

“Malawi and United Kingdom did not sever relationship,” Malawi Foreign Affairs Minister told a local radio Thursday.

“The situation in which we were is that we had the diplomat whom we had lost trust and therefore we had requested for the replacement,” Banda said.

She said Malawi government is asking London to send a new diplomat in Lilongwe. Banda disclosed that she has been in contact with Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague for a possible replacement of Cochrane-Dyte.

“We want to see if we can go and visit UK or if they can come and visit us so that we can continue with the dialogue,” Banda said on the radio.

Office of the British High Commission in Lilongwe could not comment on the matter.

The Foreign Minister statement comes after President Mutharika used the country’s Independence Celebrations speech to call upon donors to support the country, saying Malawians appreciate donors for “walking with us all the way.”

Earlier, Mutharika expressed the hope that “a new modus operandi will be agreed (with Britain) to the mutual regard of our shared common vision and interests.”— (Reporting by Thom Chiumia, Nyasa Times)

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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