South African President Thabo Mbeki arrived in Zimbabwe on Thursday for talks with his counterpart Robert Mugabe on the country's political and economic crisis.
The discussions were expected to focus on the outcome of the recent Commonwealth summit, and the resumption of political dialogue between the government and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), news report said.
John Stremlau, head of the Department of International Affairs at the University of Witwatersrand told IRIN that Mbeki would be keen to use the visit to "assert and signal South Africa's concern for an orderly transition in Zimbabwe, with maximum participation of Zimbabweans themselves".
Zimbabwe pulled out of the Commonwealth this month after the organisation reaffirmed its suspension over the conduct of presidential elections in 2002, and continuing concerns over issues of governance.
The MDC, which is challenging Mugabe's election victory in court, had signalled a desire to meet with the South African president.
"The successful brokerage of a resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis will be determined by even-handedness and the willingness to listen to the views of both sides of the Zimbabwe political equation," MDC spokesman, Paul Themba Nyathi, was quoted as saying.
Mbeki's visit comes at a time when Zimbabwe's rate of inflation has shot to 620 percent, up from a previous high of 526 percent. Employment is at around 70 percent and there are severe shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.
The UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Zimbabwe, released last month, said: "What initially appeared as a food crisis in Zimbabwe in 2002 has turned into a major humanitarian emergency due to the deteriorating economy, immense policy constraints, the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS, and depleted capacity in the social service sectors."
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