Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe signed an agreement to hold power-sharing talks with his opposition on Monday, a diplomatic breakthrough following almost three months of political instability.
A grim-looking Mugabe and smiling opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed the document in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, at about 3 p.m. local time. The agreement maps out conditions for talks that will lead to a unity government between the longtime president and the popularly supported opposition leader.
It was the first time in more than a decade that the bitter foes have met face to face.
The signing is "a positive step forward in the ongoing dialogue" to resolve the political and economic crisis that has plagued Zimbabwe for months, said South African foreign affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa.
South African president Thabo Mbeki presided over the signing. His country has led the African Union's effort to help Zimbabwe come to a peaceful resolution to the standoff, which began in March following highly contested elections.
Tsvangirai earned the most votes but pulled out of a widely contested June runoff vote following a rash of state-sponsored violence against his supporters
According to the opposition, post-election violence has left 120 people dead, thousands injured. They say rioting and property damage has put tens of thousands of Zimbabwe residents on the streets.