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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Opens Re-Engagement Dialogue With Brussels

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met in Brussels on Thursday with European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana to formally launch re-engagement with the 27-country economic and political bloc following nearly a decade of estrangement.

The encounter between Mr. Tsvangirai and Solana, the European Union's high representative for common foreign and security policy, was followed by a session of the so-called EU troika or working group on Zimbabwe which included Mr. Tsvangirai. It was agreed in that meeting to engage political dialogue under the 2000 Cotonou Agreement.

In a news conference, Mr. Solana praised what he described as Mr. Tsvangirai’s “courage…tenacity and leadership” as a great asset to Zimbabwe. He said the new dialogue will be conducted on the basis of equality of sovereign states.

That dialogue momentarily seemed in jeopardy earlier this week as some in Harare concluded that the EU was reluctant to grant visas to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, both ZANU-PF members on the EU sanctions list.

The state-run Herald newspaper reported that President Robert Mugabe threatened to call off re-engagement with Europe if his ministers were refused visas. Ultimately the French Embassy in Harare issued visas to Chinamasa and Mumbengegwi.

Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the prime minister emphasized the need for the unity government in which he shares power with Mr. Mugabe to receive international support.

London-based human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said re-engagement is an opportunity for ZANU-PF to convince the international community it is ready to embrace reform.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...