Zimbabwe and the European Union have begun their first formal political talks in 17 years.
EU ambassadors in Zimbabwe met government representatives in the first of a series of planned meetings aimed at ending decades of trade and economic hostility.
The EU removed the majority of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2014 but does not give direct financial assistance to the government. The closed-door talks, which lasted about four hours, were described as frank and constructive, focusing on trade investment, human rights and democracy.
Relations between the two parties soured under Robert Mugabe’s presidency and sanctions were placed on Zimbabwe over human rights abuses. There are some concerns that, by beginning formal talks, the EU is ignoring the recent human rights abuses such as the killings of protesters after elections in January.
The EU’s ambassador Timo Olkken believes there are some improvements from the previous government: “We think the government is serious with its reform agenda,” he said. “We have seen positive steps taken in the forms of constitutional alignment. New legal proposals are coming up. It testifies the seriousness of the government moving forward.”