Robert Mugabe has long argued that sanctions were unjustified
Southern African leaders have ended a regional summit by calling on the international community to lift all sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The leaders, from regional bloc Sadc, said Zimbabwe had made enough progress in putting together a unity government.
Analysts say Sadc's call is a victory for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has long argued against sanctions.
Rights groups say removing sanctions now would benefit the very people the measures were meant to punish.
At the end of a two-day meeting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Southern African Development Community issued a statement saying it "noted the progress made in the implementation of the Global Political Agreement" in Zimbabwe.
It went on to call on the international community "to remove all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe".
The statement was welcomed by Mr Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba, who labelled measures against Zimbabwe as "unjustified and illegal".
But Sadc seemed to have snubbed Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who had lobbied for a special summit to assess the progress of the power-sharing government.
EU: 2002 to present
Assets freeze and travel ban on some Mugabe allies, arms-sale ban
US: 2003 to present
Trade ban against 250 Zimbabwean individuals and 17 companies
Canada, Australia and UK among nations to have imposed their own targeted sanctions
Sources: EU, Reuters, US treasury, UK Foreign Office
He wants removal of sanctions to be conditional on how well the power-sharing deal signed last year has been implemented.
But Sadc leaders rejected that proposal.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who has criticised Mr Mugabe in the past and was expected to side with Mr Tsvangirai, said there should be no conditions placed on the removal of sanctions.
"We are saying the lifting of sanctions is going to help the process of implementation of the agreement by the parties in Zimbabwe," he said.
Zimbabwe analyst Geoff Hill said Mr Zuma was outgunned in the Sadc meeting by other politicians.
He told the BBC's Network Africa programme that most Sadc leaders fear anything they say against Zimbabwe now could be used against them in the future.
The US-based group Human Rights Watch said it was too early to remove sanctions because "the levers of power are still very much in the hands of the oppressors".
"[Mugabe] has managed to persuade Sadc to call for the end to sanctions without making any significant improvement in the human rights situation in Zimbabwe," said HRW's Georgette Gagnon.