No Summit Without Zimbabwe, Says AU
Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2007
By Caesar Zvayi
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May 16, 2007
THE African Union has flexed its muscles and told the European Union in no uncertain terms that it has no right to determine which Africans it will deal with at the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit scheduled for Lisbon, Portugal, in December.
Ghanaian Foreign Minister Mr Nana Akufo-Addo -- whose country holds the AU chairmanship -- told journalists after his meeting with EU officials in Belgium yesterday that if there was a summit, Zimbabwe would attend represented either by the President or any of his representatives.
"We can't have a situation where people pick and choose what Africans they will deal with if they try to deal with Africa on a continental basis. It is a summit and if it's a summit, Zimbabwe comes at the level of its leader or somebody in a representative capacity," Mr Akufo-Addo was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Mr Akufo-Addo said the AU stood by Sadc's position to have South African President Thabo Mbeki mediate any political problems in Zimbabwe, and his sentiments were echoed by EU foreign policy chief Mr Javier Solana, who said the EU was also supportive of Mr Mbeki's efforts.
At their extraordinary summit held in Tanzania at the end of March, Sadc heads of state and government came up with a historic resolution on Zimbabwe. They expressed solidarity with the Government and people of Zimbabwe, called for the lifting of the illegal Western sanctions, and urged Britain to honour its obligations to fund land reforms.
On the political front, Sadc mandated Mr Mbeki to facilitate dialogue between the Government and the opposition, while on the economic side, it pledged a rescue package to mitigate the effects of the embargo.
The AU position puts paid to claims in certain sections of the Western media that President Mugabe had divided the continent ahead of the EU-Africa summit that, ironically, has been postponed several times since 2003 as Africa refused to balk to Western pressure to hold the summit minus Zimbabwe.
The noise over the President's attendance comes in the wake of the raft of sanctions -- including a travel ban on top Government and ruling party officials -- the EU imposed on Zimbabwe after it was dragged into to the bilateral dispute between Harare and London by outgoing British Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair.
EU officials hope to use the inaugural summit to forge closer links with Africa as they feel China, which has strengthened its synergies with the continent through the China-Africa summit, is upstaging them.
Portugal, which assumes the EU presidency in July, reportedly made it clear that it wants the summit to succeed this year, and was not likely to bow to pressure from any quarter to bar Zimbabwe. Portuguese Foreign Minister Mr Luis Amado said closer economic and political co-operation with Africa was central to the success of his country's presidency.
Last week, Mr Blair -- who has been sobered after being pressured into an early retirement over his domestic and foreign policy mistakes -- was quoted in his country's Sunday Express newspaper as saying he would not oppose Cde Mugabe's attendance.
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