Need for continued Zim-US dialogue Ray

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United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray yesterday said there was need for continued dialogue and engagement between the two countries as their emergence from economic crises was an opportunity to mend relations.

In his opening statement at the Editors Forum on the US-Zimbabwe relations this year in Harare, Ray urged the two countries to work together.

Our renewed economic growth is a wonderful opportunity to establish and expand trade and investment relations, and my team has focused intensively on building these linkages over the past year, to very good effect, he said.

Ray, who also spoke on wide-ranging issues including Zimbabwes constitution-making process, placing of two Marange diamond mining firms on US targeted sanctions list, gays and lesbians, as well as the countrys Look East policy, believes relations between Zimbabwe and the US are improving.

And his priority this year is to mend the corrosive and antagonistic relations that have existed between his country and the former ruling Zanu PF party, by continually dialoguing.

Ray said elections in the US and a referendum in Zimbabwe this year called for strong national institutions, transparency, dynamic and broad-based media coverage to inform the electorate, a non-partisan police and security sector.

He observed it was time to establish new perceptions and discard tired old views.

The diplomat added last year, their focus was centred on rebuilding confidence between the two governments after their relationship had been eroded due to assumptions rather than communication.

Ray said he was in Harare to advance US interests, saying contrary to views of many, the two countries had common interests on a number of aspects.

To advance those common interests, we need to talk. We need to brainstorm. We need to share ideas, explain what elements of them can work and what cannot.

We need to be willing to take the risk of being honest with ourselves and each other if we are going to do something together jointly to benefit both of our people, Ray said.

The diplomat said there had been misconceptions that Zimbabwes relations with the US were just about disagreements, challenging elections, political violence, sanctions and human rights concerns.

He thanked the media for helping in shifting focus from divisive issues to common interests between the two countries.