The European Union (EU) has given its strongest indication yet that it may suspend the targeted sanctions imposed on the ZANU PF government, a leading news agency has said.
An EU Committee will meet on February 20th to decide on the restrictive measures against the remaining 10 ZANU PF officials, and the regime-linked arms supplier, the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI)
But according to news agency Reuters, the EU will be easing the restrictions on most of the remaining individuals but will keep, for another year, a travel ban and asset freeze on President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace.
The restrictive measures imposed on ZDI will also remain for another year.
"The overhaul of the EU's policy, after a review, is designed to encourage positive change in Zimbabwe while retaining some leverage over Mugabe to pursue reforms," the news agency said, quoting an EU source.
Mugabe has been invited to the EU-Africa Summit, slated for April in Brussels, which some observers say signals a softening attitude towards Zimbabwe.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is quoted as telling the European Parliament on Tuesday that, "it does seem a time to move forward and the sense is that Zimbabwe is moving ... we need to respond."
Speaking to SW Radio Africa on Wednesday the EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'Arricia, said he was surprised about the reports detailing the impending EU decision.
"I am really surprised at this information and that the news agency is informed about something even before a decision on the matter has been reached by the European Council," the diplomat said.
Dell'Arricia said statements by foreign policy chief Ashton are part of the EU Council assessments of the situation in Zimbabwe, and do not mean that a decision has been made.
"The decision of the Council hasn't been taken and that's why I am surprised that it's being presented as the decision of the European Council."
He said the EU decision will be guided by their assessments of all life in Zimbabwe, including the political element, the human rights situation, as well as the rule of law.
"We will also focus on the elements that provoked in the first instance the imposition of the measures and all this will be done taking into account the reports from the embassies of member states on the ground," Dell'Arricia added.
The EU suspended the restrictive measures from most of the ZANU PF officials last year, and since then has been slowly trying to re-engage with the regime.
But despite only a few of its officials remaining on the targeted sanctions list, ZANU PF continues to blame the EU measures for the party's economic failures.