HARARE - The European Union says it will suspend targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe's leadership if the African nation holds credible elections.
Along with other Western countries, the 27-member confederation imposed sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party leadership in 2002, following reports of human-rights abuses.
The EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, said ministers meeting in Brussels are encouraged by Zimbabwe's unity government reforms in recent years.
"The constitution has been completed and has been handed over to the principals, [and] I think this can be considered as a major step," he said. "Two bills have been passed by the parliament: the electoral amendment bill and the bill on the human rights commission. These are two important elements in the implementation of the GPA [Global Political Agreement].
"We are taking stock of the positive aspects, [and] of course the situation is that significant areas of concern remain," he added, an apparent reference to acts of violence by ZANU-PF supporters against members of the MDC, ZANU-PF's coalition partner, and the party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Violence targeting the MDC, then Zimbabwe's main opposition party, pushed the EU to impose sanctions on President Mugabe and other politicians in 2002. In February of this year, some ZANU-PF members were removed from the sanctions regime, which includes an asset freeze and travel ban.
On Monday, Dell’Ariccia said the situation would change with meaningful elections.
"The EU agrees that a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would represent an important milestone in the preparation of democratic elections that would justify a suspension of the majority of all EU-targeted restrictive measures against individuals and entities," he said.
As the EU diplomat was making the announcement, the parliament was receiving a copy of Zimbabwe’s draft constitution, which paves way for fresh elections. No date has been set yet for a referendum of the new constitution.