Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (C) inspects the guard of honour upon his arrival for a state visit at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare on July 13, 2023. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)
(AFP) – Zimbabwe‘s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday urged nations targeted by Western sanctions to band together as he hosted the leader of fellow international outlier Iran.
President Ebrahim Raisi arrived for the last leg of the first Africa tour by an Iranian leader in 11 years, on a tour aimed at easing the Islamic republic’s international isolation.
Raisi is the highest profile leader to visit Zimbabwe in the thick of an election campaign for a closely-watched August 23 presidential and parliamentary vote.
“It is critically important that we, the victims of Western sanctions, are talking to each other… that we show them that we’re united,” Mnangagwa told a press briefing after talks with Raisi.
“I am happy you have come to show solidarity,” Mnangagwa told Raisi on arrival, calling him “my brother”.
Mnangagwa, 80, who is seeking re-election in what analysts predict will be a tense ballot, has long blamed his country’s dire economic straits on sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union.
Western countries retort that the measures target specific individuals accused of graft and human rights abuses rather than the whole country.
Africa has emerged as a diplomatic battleground, with Russia and the West trying to court support over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which has had a devastating economic impact on the continent, sending food prices soaring.
Western powers have also sought to deepen trade ties with Africa, along with India and China.
– ‘Continent of capacities, potentials’ –
Hundreds of people waving Zimbabwean and Iranian flags had gathered at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare during the morning to greet Raisi.
Many were from the southern African country’s Muslim community, including women wearing headscarves and school children holding welcome banners.
The two leaders signed “a record” 12 agreements on topics ranging from energy to telecommunications, Mnangagwa said.
These will help Zimbabwe access innovation and technology from Iran and envisage the creation of a tractor factory to support agricultural mechanisation, he added.
Raisi’s visit comes with Iran stepping up diplomacy to reduce its isolation and offset the impact of crippling sanctions reimposed since the 2018 withdrawal of the United States from a painstakingly negotiated nuclear deal.
Raisi has already been to Kenya and Uganda this week holding talks with his counterparts William Ruto and Yoweri Museveni.
On Thursday, Raisi described Africa as “the continent of capacities and potentials”, adding stronger cooperation would benefit “the advancement” of both parties.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani has described Raisi’s continental tour as “a new turning point” which could bolster economic and trade ties with African nations.
He also said on Monday that Tehran and the three African countries share “common political views”.
Melody Muzenda, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe‘s ruling Zanu-PF party said the visit “shows we have good relations with other countries.”
© Agence France-Presse