Zimbabwe will remain suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth until December when the Commonwealth Heads of Government meet in Nigeria to decide on a way forward, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, said on Sunday.
This comes as a turnaround on recent reports that two members of the Commonwealth troika on Zimbabwe - Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki - had recommended the lifting of the country's one-year suspension, which is due for review on 19 March.
The suspension was imposed after last year's controversial presidential elections.
A statement released by McKinnon said that members of the troika, which includes Australian Prime Minister John Howard, agreed that he [McKinnon] should undertake wider consultations among Commonwealth governments.
He said that leaders he consulted across the Commonwealth stated that they wished to see the Commonwealth continue to work together on the issue of Zimbabwe.
"Some member governments take the view that it is time to lift Zimbabwe's suspension from the councils of the Commonwealth when the one-year period expires on 19 March 2003. Some others feel that there is no justification for such a step and that there is in fact reason to impose stronger measures," McKinnon said.
"The members of the Troika have now concluded that the most appropriate approach in the circumstances is for Zimbabwe's suspension from the councils of the Commonwealth to remain in place until Commonwealth Heads of Government address the issue and decide upon a way forward at the CHOGM in December 2003," he added.
McKinnon noted: "The issue of land reform is at the core of the situation in Zimbabwe and cannot be separated from other issues of concern to the Commonwealth, such as the rule of law, respect for human rights, democracy and the economy. The Commonwealth and the wider international community remain ready to assist the government of Zimbabwe in addressing this key issue.
"I once again call on the Zimbabwe government to re-engage with the Commonwealth and the United Nations Development Programme on the issue of transparent, equitable and sustainable measures for land reform, as agreed at Abuja in September 2001. Commonwealth governments also look to the Government of Zimbabwe to honour its undertakings given to other regional leaders on issues of concern."
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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