France to offer Zimbabwe financial support once Harare clears debt

France to offer Zimbabwe financial support once Harare clears debt

HARARE, June 5 (Reuters) – France will provide financial support to Zimbabwe once the southern African country clears its foreign debt, the French deputy secretary of foreign affairs said on Friday after holding talks with Harare authorities.

Rémy Rioux told journalists in Harare that France wanted to increase trade and improve ties with Zimbabwe, which was slapped with travel and financial sanctions by the European Union and United States in 2003.

Zimbabwe owes $9 billion to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank and the Paris Club, a group of Western creditors, including France.

“So as soon as the debt issue is settled of course we would have the capacity to engage much more actively and I would say re-open various instruments that France has that it is using in other countries,” Roux said.

Rioux said the talks with Zimbabwean officials from the ministries of foreign affairs and finance were the first ever at that level, where he also raised concern over Zimbabwe’s human rights record and security of foreign investment.

Foreign investors often point to President Robert Mugabe’s black economic empowerment drive that seeks to transfer majority shares in foreign-owned firms to locals as an impediment to investing in Zimbabwe.

The West has in the past accused Mugabe’s government of gross human rights violations, including torture and violence against political opponents. Mugabe denies the charges