, HARARE, May 6 – Zimbabwe will send government ministers this week to hold talks with European Union officials over sanctions slapped on President Robert Mugabe and his circle a decade ago, state media said Sunday.
“We have confirmed the meeting and the ministers will leave on Tuesday” for Brussels, foreign affairs secretary Joey Bimha told the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper.
He said the officials were travelling at the EU’s invitation and would meet with Catherine Ashton, EU foreign affairs chief and vice president of the European Commission.
Six ministers from the three main political parties in the coalition government of Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will attend, the Sunday Mail said.
The paper quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa saying the Zimbabwe delegation’s objective is to push for the removal of sanctions on Mugabe and top officials in his ZANU-PF party.
“Our position is that the sanctions should be removed unconditionally and that is what we are going to take to the table,” Chinamasa said.
“We are happy that they have invited us and we pray that the goodwill they have shown in inviting us will also be extended in removing the embargo.”
The 27-nation EU removed a visa ban and asset freeze on 51 individuals in February to encourage “further progress” of political reforms in Zimbabwe.
It also suspended the travel ban on Chinamasa and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi so they could travel to Brussels for talks, but maintained asset freezes against them.
But 112 people are still subject to the measures.
Human Rights Watch had urged the EU to maintain the travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe until the country follows through on promised political reforms.
The EU sanctions were imposed in 2002 following elections marred by widespread violence and intimidation.
Mugabe, who is 88, 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.