Port Vila — The African, Carribean and Pacific Group says it stands in solidarity with Zimbabwe as it seeks the removal of illegal sanctions imposed by the European Union.
Describing the sanctions as a "source of irritation" between the 79-member ACP group and the EU, secretary-general Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said he was hopeful an amicable solution would be sought soon to clear the issues and restore normal relations.
A joint delegation of the ACP and EU will visit Zimbabwe within the next few months as part of efforts to foster an amicable solution.
This comes as the EU and Zimbabwe have embarked on a re-engagement process for the removal of the illegal sanctions.
The impending visit would be the first major joint ACP-EU delegation to Zimbabwe in recent years.
"Remember the moment when the ACP boycotted a joint Parliamentary assembly between the ACP and the EU in Brussels because the Zimbabwean delegation had been denied access into the meeting . . . but we are excited now about the progress witnessed in the last few months where some of the targeted sanctions were removed," said Dr Chambas responding to questions during a press conference here yesterday.
The visit follows hard on the heels of that by the EU officials recently . . . who held meetings with President Mugabe. , viewed largely as a reflection of the EU softening stance on this country.
Zimbabwe has been battling the illegal sanctions that have not only hurt targeted individuals but the ordinary people at large.
Key developmental projects in health, education and other sectors have been aborted as a result.
Land redistribution and efforts to put the country's resources in the hands of the majority have caught the ire of the West, leading to the imposition of sanctions, condemned by the Africa Union, SADC and other bi-lateral and multilateral institutions.
In an interview on the sidelines of the ACP Council of Ministers meeting that began here on Monday, Zimbabwe's ambassador to Belgium Ms Mary Margaret Muchada said the EU had acted unilaterally in imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe without consulting the ACP framework but she was confident progress would be achieved within the next few months.
"Zimbabwe is taking the EU to court so we will see what happens there . . . ," she said.
Dr Chamba said efforts under the Joint Parliamentary Assembly, that included a meeting in Zambia last year had seen improvements in relations between Zimbabwe and the EU. He paid tribute to Zambia's president Michael Sata for hosting the discussions.
"Since the establishment of the coalition government we have seen incremental improvements.
"We want to see the EU support Zimbabwe, particularly in the constitution making process and the upcoming elections," he said.
Other contentious issues affecting ACP relations with the West were that of Cuba and Fiji in which the latter imposed sanctions in protest to political developments in the respective countries.
"It is normal for the ACP to have such disagreements with the EU but these always happen against the background of large and substantial programmes taking place.
"All the time we negotiate with patience and persistence and we will continue to engage the EU.
"Cuba and the US are having a cold war between them and we have said that maybe global warming will cut the cold war," said ACP President of the Council of Ministers Mr Alva Baptiste.
These issues are expected to be discussed further during the 37th session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers meeting which begins here today. (please note that first there was the 95th session of the ACP council of Ministers meeting that has now ended and now the joint meeting.)
The two partners are expected to find common ground on trade matters, political issues, the Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary activities in 2011 and reports on migration and development. The intra-ACP funding envelop and the Economic Development Fund will also be under review.