Zimbabwe

EU'S Ashton to meet Zimbabwe ministers

2012-05-09 07:44

Special Report

SA is Zim's top trading partner
SA is Zim's top trading partner

South Africa has emerged as Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner for the first quarter of 2014, with the country importing goods worth $625.6m from SA.

Brussels - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is to meet on Thursday with three ministers from Zimbabwe to discuss political reforms but a further easing of sanctions is unlikely, an EU official said on Tuesday.

After easing sanctions against Zimbabwe in February, the European Union aims to express "our encouragement of continuing political reforms", said Ashton's spokesperson Michael Mann.

The three ministers are from the three main political parties in the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - the MDC-T, Zanu-PF and MDC-N.

In Harare, state media last weekend quoted one of the three - Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa from Mugabe's Zanu-PF - as saying the ministers hoped the talks would lead to the unconditional removal of remaining EU sanctions.

But a senior EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "progress on political reform has continued in the right direction, but is fairly slow".

"The talks will give us an opportunity to say what we are looking for and for them to say what they are planning," the official added.

The other two ministers travelling to Brussels are Energy Minister Elton Mangoma of the MDC-T and Regional Integration Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of the MDC-N.

In February, the 27-nation EU removed a visa ban and asset freeze on 51 of 150 people targeted by the restrictive measures and 20 of 30 companies under EU sanctions imposed in 2002.

It maintained sanctions against Mugabe, who is 88 and has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980. After failed elections in 2008, he was forced into a power-sharing government with his rival Tsvangirai, a move meant to clear the way to new polls.

- SAPA

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