The United States government has said president Joe Biden did not have a scheduled meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa during the COP26 Leaders’ Summit held in Glasgow, Scotland.

Upon returning from the summit, Mnangagwa chronicled his meetings with world leaders including Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and EU council president Charles Michel.

He claimed that during the meetings, he pressed the leaders to remove sanctions. He said:

I had an opportunity to chat with President Joe Biden and the spirit which he has towards Zimbabwe is totally different from what we see from the US Embassy in Harare.

In fact, he called a staffer and said ‘please make sure that I have a chat with the President’ (referring to President Mnangagwa).

In e-mailed responses to the Independent, a US State Department spokesperson said Mnangagwa and Biden had nothing short of a brief encounter during a reception. Said the spokesperson:

President Biden did not have a scheduled meeting with President Mnangagwa during the COP26 Leaders’ Summit held in Glasgow, Scotland. They did interact briefly at a reception.

The US State Department shot down Mnangagwa’s claim that the US embassy in Harare’s views on Zimbabwe were not representative of Washington. Added the spokesperson:

Under the direction of the President and Secretary of State, the Chief of Mission serves as the President’s highest-ranking representative to a specific nation or international organisation abroad.

The responsibilities of the Chief of Mission include pursuing and explaining US policy in the country where they serve. The United States shares the same fundamental interests as the Zimbabwean people: a stable, peaceful, democratic Zimbabwe that reflects the people’s will and provides for their needs.

The spokesperson said the easing of restrictive measures, including sanctions and visa restrictions, will only occur following reforms including credible, transparent, and lasting democratic reforms.

The spokesperson reiterated that Zimbabwe’s economic ills are caused by leaders abusing power and misdirecting public funds to their private accounts, not US sanctions.

Harare and Washington have had a tumultuous relationship since 2001 when the global power enacted the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) following a chaotic land redistribution programme in 2000, which displaced over 3 500 white former commercial farmers.

After taking over the reins in 2017, Mnangagwa pledged to pursue a re-engagement exercise to bring Zimbabwe back into the international community.