Lift sanctions, Angola tells EU
Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2008

Herald Reporters
July 24, 2008

Zanu-PF and MDC-T negotiators flew to South Africa yesterday evening to begin talks to resolve the country's political and economic problems as Angola called on the European Union to lift the illegal embargo against Harare.

The call came on the same day as the Zanu-PF Politburo held an extraordinary meeting in Harare where it endorsed dialogue.

Meanwhile, Russia said the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding vindicated its position at the United Nations Security Council to oppose more sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The ruling party negotiators, Cde Patrick Chinamasa and Cde Nicholas Goche, and their MDC-T counterparts Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma were on the same South African Airways flight to Johannesburg.

Airport officials confirmed the four negotiators were travelling on the same plane that was scheduled to take off at 1810 hours.

MDC negotiators Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga were believed to have already flown to South Africa.

On Tuesday, Cde Chinamasa said the talks would begin today at an undisclosed venue.

The negotiating teams have two weeks from Monday – the date of the signing of the MoU – to complete the talks and reach agreement.

South African President Thabo Mbeki is brokering the talks.

An extraordinary Zanu-PF Politburo meeting yesterday gave the party negotiating team the green light to continue with the dialogue in line with the negotiating parameters as spelt out in the MoU.

In an interview soon after the meeting yesterday evening, party deputy secretary for information and publicity Cde Ephraim Masawi said the party's supreme decision-making body met and was briefed on the MoU.

He said the meeting expressed satisfaction with the MoU and gave the nod to the party's negotiators to continue with their work.

"We met as the Politburo to be briefed of the signing of the MoU and chart the way forward. The issues that came up were whether we accept that our people should continue in these negotiations.

"We gave Cde Chinamasa and Cde Goche the green light for them to go ahead with the negotiations within the parameters signed by the principals," said Cde Masawi.

"We were briefed about the role of the facilitator, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and the party felt that he was fighting hard to find solutions to an African problem."

Cde Masawi said the extraordinary Politburo meeting hailed the good work being done by President Mbeki.

Russia, which recently vetoed a United States draft sanctions resolution on Zimbabwe at the UN Security Council, on Tuesday said that its decision to block the economic embargo had been justified by the signing of the MoU by the country's three main political parties.

Speaking to the Press after a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, President Hugo Chavez, in Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev repeated that he had confidence that dialogue, and not sanctions, was the best way forward.

"Our position on this issue has been consistent from the outset, and these consultations (the ongoing dialogue) prove that this position is justified. I hope that during these consultations, all basic agreements will be reached to calm the situation," he said.

Russia's foreign ministry also issued a statement welcoming the start of talks in Zimbabwe.

"Russia welcomes this decision, which opens up the route to overcoming the internal political crisis in the country. We call on leading political forces in the country to continue to show a constructive approach in the name of national unity and accord," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

AFP reports that Angola yesterday called on the European Union to immediately lift sanctions against the

Zimbabwean leadership, warning they could derail the negotiations.

"The EU should lift all sanctions on the leaders of Zimbabwe as soon as possible," Foreign Minister Mr Joao Miranda told state-run RNA radio.

"There is no reason to justify the maintenance of these sanctions. All obstacles liable to endanger the progress of negotiations should be removed."

Mr Miranda's comments come a day after EU foreign ministers widened sanctions against Zimbabwe despite the signing of the MoU by President Mugabe, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC's Arthur Mutambara to pave way for the talks.

Mr Miranda, whose government is one of Zimbabwe's staunchest allies in Sadc, said it made no sense to propose new sanctions at a time when Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition were talking.

"This dialogue is for real," he added.

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