HARARE, March 30 — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has decided to pull out from attending a summit to be held in Brussels next month between the European Union (EU) and African states over the bloc's selection of participating African leaders.
Zimbabwe Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Joey Bimha confirmed that President Mugabe and his delegation will not be traveling to Belgium and the seats reserved for Zimbabwe at the summit will be empty, the state-controlled Sunday Mail reported.
Bimha said the EU was suspected of "holding Africa in contempt." According to Zimbabwe's state media, Mugabe was initially not invited, his wife Grace Mugabe has not been granted a visa, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has also not been invited.
Mugabe and his wife are the only remaining individuals on EU's travel ban of more than 200 people, which was imposed in 2002. In theory, they can be temporarily exempted to attend international conferences.
Bimha said Zimbabwe, rotating vice chair of the African Union (AU), has also urged other AU members to boycott the summit on the ground that some AU members were also not invited and substituted by northern African states which are not AU members or whose membership is suspended.
"Consultations were still ongoing to decide whether other AU members should attend or not," Bimha said, but adding that unconfirmed reports suggested AU Chair President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania wanted the summit to proceed as planned.
EU's head of commission to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia explained that it is not a EU-AU summit but EU and African states, and there will be no programs for spouses of the heads of states.
Ariccia earlier told state media the Herald newspaper that 48 African countries have confirmed their participation of which 41 will be represented by the heads of states, as well as all 28 EU states, including 23 being represented by the heads of states. (PNA/Xinhua)