Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from Baroness Amos, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

  When I gave evidence to your Committee on 12 December, Sir John Stanley asked for clarification on a point concerning election observers. He asked specifically whether or not the Zimbabwean government "is making a ban on observers from Britain or indeed from any other EU country".

  We have consulted our High Commission in Harare. The Government of Zimbabwe has not explicitly banned observers from the UK or other European countries. But they have made it clear that only invited teams of observers will be welcome.

  President Mugabe told visiting SADC Ministers in December that SADC, OAU, ECOWAS and the Commonwealth would be invited to send observers. He said that he would not be inviting the EU as a bloc, but some "good" EU countries might be invited to send observers in their own right. In his opening address to the ZANU(PF) Congress last weekend, President Mugabe singled out France, Spain and Italy as EU countries who had been more supportive of Zimbabwe's intention to consider observers from those countries.

  If the Government of Zimbabwe does invite the Commonwealth to send observers, that team might include UK obervers, unless the Zimbabwe Government specifically ruled that out. Whether or not UK obervers were invited, it would be difficult for the Government of Zimbabwe to ban accredited British diplomats at the High Commission from some sort of observation role. But it would be hard for our High Commission to get wide access without Zimbabwean co-operation.

  As you will understand, it is impossible to be definitive at this stage. The Government of Zimbabwe may change its position at any stage, and any answer is therefore provisional.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

9 January 2002

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