21 July 2008

Zimbabwe: Parties to Sign Talks Deal, Says South Africa

Zimbabwean political parties are on the verge of signing an agreement which establishes a framework for substantive negotiations to end the country's political crisis.

South African foreign affairs spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, said in a statement today that a "memorandum of understanding" would be signed in Harare at 3 pm Monday Zimbabwe time (1 pm GMT).

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator of talks, flew to Harare on Monday morning for the signing ceremony. The memorandum "represents a positive step forward in the ongoing dialogue," Mamoepa said.

The impetus for the final breakthrough in the "talks about talks" which have been conducted over recent weeks appears to have been a decision on Friday to set up a "reference group," comprising African Union, United Nations and SADC diplomats with whom Mbeki will liaise. Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change has repeatedly challenged Mbeki's impartiality.

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