European Union foreign ministers are poised to extend sanctions against Zimbabwe next month, the EUobserver website reported on Tuesday.
The ministers, due to meet in Brussels on February 23, will approve the renewal of targeted sanctions on leaders of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party, diplomats have confirmed.
The measures, which were put in place in 2002, restrict the travel of 72 Zimbabwean government officials and people close to them, in retaliation for human rights abuses in the country.
However, the extension of sanctions last year was complicated by a French request that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe be allowed to visit Paris for a Franco-African summit.
For almost a month Paris refused to renew the sanctions, calling for Mugabe to be granted a waiver.
The waiver was eventually granted, but only after causing a significant diplomatic disagreement between France and the United Kingdom.
The new measures are expected to be extended for a period of one year. However, no agreement has yet been reached on widening the scope of sanctions.
“That is something that is being discussed in Paris and with partners,” a French spokesperson said.
One British official said that “certain people are working on whether the list [of Zimbabwean officials] is still up to date”, adding also that “the focus of them is being discussed”.
The deputy leader of the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Gibson Sibanda, on a visit to Brussels on Tuesday backed calls for the sanctions to be expanded.
“The sanctions should be expanded to cover these people who are economic pillars of the regime,” said Sibanda, adding: “The international community needs to put more pressure on Mugabe to come to the negotiating table.”
Sibanda, however, said that the sanctions should not be imposed without being accompanied by a “a promise to lift them at a particular stage of negotiations”.
The Zimbabwean ambassador to Brussels, Gift Punungwe, rejected the sanctions, saying they placed “a stranglehold” on the country’s economy, and also accused outsiders of meddling in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.
“Outside is where the agenda of the country is being determined,” he said.