NewsSouthern AfricaZimbabwe and UK to meet over bilateral dispute


Posted on Monday, 25 March 2013 17:23

Zimbabwe and UK to meet over bilateral dispute

By Janet Shoko

Zimbabwe's governing parties and the British government will on Tuesday begin talks in London in a fresh bid to resolve a bilateral dispute that has lasted close to 14 years.


This comes after Britain sent a formal invitation from Mark Simmonds, the UK parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to Zimbabwe's re-engagement team for talks.

Zimbabwe's re-engagement team consists of negotiators from President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations that formed a coalition government in 2009.

Relations between Britain and Zimbabwe soured in 1997 when former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour government pulled out of talks to fund Mugabe's controversial land reforms.

Mugabe also accused the British of meddling in the country's affairs by funding his opponents.

At the height of diplomatic feud, Britain and fellow European Union (EU) member countries in 2002 imposed targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle.

The formation of a power sharing government and easing of internal repression against Mugabe's opponents has seen the EU roll back the sanctions to leave just 10 individuals and two companies on the blacklist.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa of Zanu PF said the invitation for talks "could be an indication that Britain realises that its foreign policy on Zimbabwe is collapsing and they want to embark on a new path".

"Events will tell, but Britain should realise that its foreign policy on Zimbabwe is not sustainable," he told the state owned Herald at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the EU on Monday suspended most sanctions on Zimbabwe following a peaceful referendum on the new constitution paving the way for fresh elections in the Southern African country.

Mugabe, his wife Grace and a number of top generals are among the 10 individuals remaining on the list that once had more than 200 people. Two state owned companies were retained.

"The EU...has today agreed to immediately suspend the application of measures against 81 individuals and eight entities," EU foreign policy chief said in a statement.

Mugabe wants fresh elections held by the end of June to bring to an end the troubled coalition government.

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