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Mnangagwa, Blair to meet again

by Staff reporter
08 Sep 2022 at 17:36hrs | Views
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is keen to resolve deep-rooted differences with Zimbabwe and create a new beginning for relations between the former colonial power and the country, President Mnangagwa said.

Speaking this afternoon, after his arrival in the country from the 12th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) summit that was held in Kigali, Rwanda, recently, the President said Blair had accepted to bury differences and work closely with him to propel back the Zimbabwe – UK relations to healthy levels with further discussions set to be held in Egypt soon.

"In the course of that (AGRF summit platform), we then met Tony Blair…I think initially there was some chemistry – the chemistry between me and him was not excellent, but after some contact, the chemistry improved," President Mnangagwa said.

"And we have agreed that there should be further discussions in Egypt (on the sidelines of the forthcoming 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP27). He accepted that the past is the past and we cannot live in the past. And, we should now look into the future and see how we can move better in the future."

When asked about the experience of shaking hands with Blair, who had an extremely acrimonious relationship with Zimbabwe in the past, for the first time in years in Rwanda, the President said: "Ah! That is obvious. It is expected. I was anxious to show him that despite sanctions, we are very solid. And, I think on his part, he was anxious to show that despite the past mistakes, he is still willing to reconcile with the future."

Zimbabwe-UK relations plunged soon after the former undertook the land reform programme to redistribute land to landless blacks.

Blair, who was British Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, took a tougher stance against Zimbabwe after the country embarked on the land redistribution exercise, roping in the US and other western countries to impose sanctions on the country.

Tensions were easing a bit now following the Second Republic's move to push for re-engagement with western countries soon after President Mnangagwa assumed office a few years ago.

And, at the just-ended AGRF summit, Blair, soon after he made his remarks, shook hands with President Mnangagwa, something all British leaders at various international forums avoided after the former colonial power and its Western allies imposed crippling sanctions on Zimbabwe.

The handshake was seen as the most momentous, with some commentators saying this was: "A beautifully human moment shared by the President and Blair."

Relations between Zimbabwe and the UK soured in 1997, when Blair's government pulled out of the talks to fund Zimbabwe's land reforms.

Britain withdrew development aid and sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe.

But this has changed now and President Mnangagwa is working to ease tension and work closely with Blair to restore good relations with the UK.

Meanwhile, the President said he held bilateral relations with Rwanda and Niger on wide-ranging issues that also covered agriculture.

He said President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger was keen to learn more about how Zimbabwe had moved to modernise its agricultural systems.

The President together with his counterparts – President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Bazoum of Niger and Tanzania's Vice President Dr Phillip Isdor Mpango took part in a Africa Green Revolution Forum 2022 presidential summit panel discussion.

Source - The Herald