German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to attend a summit of European Union and African leaders, even if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is there.
Brown and Merkel are not united over Mugabe
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last month he would not attend the summit if Mr Mugabe attended.
Mrs Merkel is starting her first African tour since becoming chancellor, heading first for Ethiopia.
A German official said relations with Africa "should not be hostage to developments in Zimbabwe".
"The chancellor will take part in the summit," the official said, quoted by Reuters.
"It is in our interests to go through with the summit."
The EU-Africa summit is to take place in Lisbon in December.
The official said however that developments in Zimbabwe are "massively problematic", and would be raised by Mrs Merkel when she visits South African President Thabo Mbeki.
"The chancellor will talk about this with Mbeki and urge him to exercise his influence on Zimbabwe to change the developments of the last few years," the official said.
South Africa, Zimbabwe's influential neighbour, has consistently rejected suggestions of punitive measures against Mr Mugabe's government.
Western governments are trying to put pressure on Mugabe
Mr Mbeki has, however, recently hosted talks in South Africa between Zimbabwe government and opposition officials.
Western criticism of Zimbabwe has focussed on political repression and the economy, with official inflation in Zimbabwe currently running at over 7,000%.
In Ethiopia, Mrs Merkel will meet Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and African Union Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare.
After visiting South Africa, Mrs Merkel will end her African tour in Liberia, where she will meet President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and discuss the country's prospects of post-conflict recovery.