The first high-level European Union delegation to visit Zimbabwe in seven years said on Sunday relations with the country were entering a "new phase" but full cooperation hinged on the implementation of a power-sharing deal.
Swedish International Development Minister Gunilla Carlsson said "Now we're entering a new phase. The political agreement was an important step forward, but much needs to be done. The key to re-engagement is the full implementation of the political agreement."
On Saturday, President Robert Mugabe welcomed the delegation with "open arms".
The visit by EU Aid and Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht and the Swedish EU presidency is the first since the EU began targeted sanctions in 2002 against members of Mugabe's government for alleged human rights violations.
"The restrictive measures were there because of violations. We cannot fully re-engage until we see the global political agreement is being implemented fully. There's more that needs to be done here," Carlsson told a news conference when asked about the possibility of lifting sanctions.
The power-sharing agreement and the subsequent formation of a government of national unity "was an important step forward for normalising the situation in Zimbabwe."
The EU remains the main overall donor to Zimbabwe, having provided 572 million euros ($829 million) in humanitarian aid to the country since 2002, despite the targeted sanctions.
To date, 203 people and 40 companies linked to the Mugabe government face travel and some financial restrictions within the 27-nation bloc.
Mugabe has long held his Westerners responsible for Zimbabwe's steep economic decline, saying sanctions were imposed as retaliation for the seizure of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to blacks.
"He (Mugabe) mentioned the restrictive measures, which he calls economic sanctions but we don't agree on that characterisation forward in the implementation of the global political agreement," De Gucht told the press conference.
"We are not going to do that unless there is a process going forward in the implementation of the global political agreement."
The EU has backed Tsvangirai, whose appointment as prime minister under a South African-mediated power sharing agreement was supposed to bring an end to Zimbabwe's political turmoil.
The visit by the EU delegation came as regional leaders demanded the bloc drop its targeted sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his close allies.
Regional heavyweight South Africa on Friday met the EU for talks after urging that sanctions be dropped so that the deal signed in February between Mugabe and Tsvangirai can proceed unhindered.
Last Mod: 13 Eylül 2009, 17:10