The European Union will continue to support the mediation effort of South African President Thabo Mbeki in the Zimbabwe crisis, the EU's acting head, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said on Friday in Bordeaux.
The EU has been critical of longtime Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
"I personally would not speak with (Zimbabwean President) Robert Mugabe because I judge very harshly what he has done," Sarkozy said after the first-ever EU-South Africa summit. "But one cannot criticize Mbeki because he wants to mediate and therefore is talking with all sides."
At the summit, Mbeki held talks with Sarkozy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU's foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana.
Sarkozy assured Mbeki of the Union's continued support in his efforts to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.
More time needed
There is consensus within the EU that Mbeki should be granted more time to deal with the issue, particularly as it appears to be bearing fruit. But Sarkozy said the negotiations should not be drawn out for too long.
"Europe does not want to interfere, but at the same time Europe cannot accept certain images and acts," the French president said, referring to the violence perpetrated by Mugabe supporters during the protracted election campaign in Zimbabwe.
According to Mbeki, talks in Bordeaux did not include the issue of further sanctions against the Mugabe regime.
Other issues discussed during the summit included immigration, trade and climate change.
South Africa is the only African state to date to have signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with the EU. Friday's summit was the first since the establishment of the Partnership, in May 2007.