Europe Air Flight Ban Derails Zimbabwe-European Union Talks

Published on Wednesday 21st April 2010

A new threat has emerged to the immediate resumption of Zimbabwe-European Union re-engagement talks and this time it is not disagreements among the parties involved, but a force of nature.

A cloud of volcanic ash following the eruption of Mt Eyjafjoell in Iceland last week has covered Northern European skies and grounded airlines, scuppering the inter-ministerial team's travel plans.

Zimbabwe's inter-ministerial team was supposed to leave for Brussels, Belgium, for the resumption of re-engagement talks but had to postpone the trip because of the freeze on air transportation.

Earlier in the day, delegation leader Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Elton Mangoma had been hopeful they would manage to fly but those plans had to be temporarily put on the backburner.

Other members of the team are Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa and his Regional Integration and International Co-operation counterpart Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

Late yesterday afternoon, Minister Misihaira-bwi-Mushonga said their flight had been terminated due to the volcanic ash cloud.

"The trip has been cancelled and right now it has been rescheduled for tomorrow (today) but we don't know if we will make it to Europe," she said.

She confirmed that the Zimbabwe team had agreed on a common position on the issue of sanctions, as reported in The Herald last week.

"The purpose of the dialogue is for us to have a common ground on how sanctions may be removed.

"We want these sanctions to be lifted to pave way for speedy economic recovery," Minister Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.

She said the delegation was hoping for a positive result from the meetings.

Minister Mangoma, however, refused to disclose the agenda of the talks.

It is understood that the Zimbabwean team will meet with EU foreign policy chief Lady Ashton of Britain.

A Foreign Ministry source privy to the agenda said: "The EU has its benchmarks for the dialogue but at the moment the discussion will focus on ways sanctions will be lifted.

"It should be understood that sanctions are one of the sticking issues threatening the survival of the inclusive Government and full implementation of the Global Political Agreement."

The talks have faced a number of hiccups since they started in June last year.

Twice, Minister Chinamasa has faced difficulties in getting a Belgian visa from the French Embassy in Harare.

The French Embassy is responsible for issuance of Belgian visas in Zimbabwe.

Minister Chinamasa was also detained at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany in what observers construed to be a thinly veiled bid to ensure he would not get to the talks venue on time.

The EU and the United States have imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe, which have been blamed for plunging the country into socio-economic turmoil.

A 2006 study by the EU admitted that the sanctions were imposed in a bid to influence the 2002 presidential elections won by President Mugabe.

Critics of the widely discredited embargo have long pointed out that the sanctions were instituted to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.


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