HARARE, June 17– President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe says Mali and Zimbabwe must deepen their co-operation in all socio-economic spheres for the two countries to uplift the lives of their peoples.

Speaking at a banquet hosted in honour of visiting Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita here Tuesday, he said the two countries already enjoyed cordial relations. “Our two countries are endowed with rich natural resources, we share common aspirations and values. We are bound together by a common history
of struggle and the desire to enhance the well-being of our people,” he said said.

“Our relations are already on a sound footing and by engaging more effectively on a wide range of issues including the economic, social and cultural aspects, we can raise these relations to new levels.”

Keita arrived in Zimbabwe on Tuesday for a three-day State visit after attending the just ended African Union
(AU) Summit in Johannesburg. The visit, which comes a month after President Robert Mugabe visited the West African nation to witness a peace signing ceremony between the Malian government and rebel forces, is expected to provide a platform for the two countries to further strengthen relations.

Officials said Keita was expected to update President Mugabe, who is the current AU chairman, on developments in his country following the signing of the peace accord, which the major Tuareg rebel movement is, however, yet to endorse.

On Tuesday, President Mugabe said the visit would allow the two countries to “inject fresh energy into our interactions in various spheres.” Opportunities for economic cooperation existed in various areas, including trade, agriculture, mining and tourism, he added.

As for the situation in Mali, President Mugabe lauded progress being made towards finding a lasting solution to the volatile situation in the West African nation. Plagued by rebel-fuelled instability, Keita’s government is currently implementing a United Nations-backed peace process, which brings together all the warring parties.

“The unity and cohesion of Modibo Keita’s Mali must be promoted and safeguarded so that our people can register tangible development and progress in an atmosphere of harmony,” President Mugabe said. Modibo Keita is Mali’s founding president.

Keita said the visit would allow Zimbabwe and Mali to chart a new path in their bilateral relations. “Malians and Zimbabweans are united by a common history and common destiny, which transcends formal boundaries,” he said.

“I am confident that this is a new era for a strengthened and revived co-operation and friendship between our two peoples.”