President Robert Mugabe is free to join other African and European Union (EU) leaders at a summit scheduled for April in Brussels, a western diplomat has said.
Topics for discussion at the two-day EU-Africa Summit will include peace, security, investment, climate change and migration.
Confusion over whether Mugabe would be travelling to Brussels arose when the state media quoted a cabinet minister saying that Mugabe, who is on the EU targeted sanctions list, had not been invited.
Other African leaders threatened to stay away from the Brussels meeting in solidarity with Mugabe, whom they recently elected AU deputy chairperson.
But EU ambassador Aldo Dell'Ariccia, who is also quoted in a Zim Independent newspaper report, says Mugabe was invited at the same time as other African leaders.
"He's been invited as all the other African Heads of State, just as he's been invited to previous EU-Africa summits," Dell'Ariccia told SW Radio Africa Friday.
Asked about Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi's remarks in the State media that Mugabe had been snubbed, Dell'Ariccia said the minister's remarks came after the invitations, including Mugabe's, had been issued.
The envoy said the summit is a platform for frank high-level discussions of issues of mutual importance to Africa and Europe and "so it is normal that President Mugabe will be invited".
"The decision to invite Mugabe is independent from the restrictive measures and all members agree with that," Dell'Ariccia said. He added that there are provisions in international law for people on targeted sanctions to attend such summits.
"But at the summit there will be open and frank discussion of different subjects and possibly, the situation of Zimbabwe will also be discussed," he added.
An EU decision on the restrictive measures, still in place against President Mugabe and nine others, is expected around February 20th, ahead of the Brussels summit.
The European bloc has been steadily re-engaging with ZANU PF and has lifted most of the targeted measures, despite continuing human rights violations by the ZANU PF regime.
Some observers say the EU wants to lift the remaining restrictions and has been softening its stance on Harare, and that the country's recent re-admittance into the global diamond trade proves this.
On Monday, UK based Zim activist Ephraim Tapa told SW Radio Africa that the EU has likely been engineering Mugabe's acceptance back into diplomatic circles, "because there is a fight for access to Zimbabwe's natural resources."
Belgium, Europe's diamond trade capital, successfully pushed for the lifting of measures that barred it from trading in Zimbabwe's controversial Chiadzwa diamonds.
Tapa said similar "greedy" motives might have engineered Mugabe's promotion to a top leadership position at the AU and Southern African Development Community, where he was recently elected deputy chairperson.
Credit: SW Radio Africa (London)