Washington DC - Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday, adding that the US was concerned about the current political situation in the Southern African country.

"I know all of us are following very closely the events in Zimbabwe and they are a concern to I know each of you. They are a concern to us as well, and we all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution," Tillerson said at a ministerial meeting on trade, security, and governance in Africa in Washington DC.

"Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path – one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights. Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government." He urged delegates to discuss concrete ways that the US could help Zimbabwe through the transition.

Tillerson said the meeting was intended to expand and enrich the US’s relationship with African countries to promote trade and investment, encourage good governance, and counter terrorism.

Economic growth and lasting prosperity could only thrive in an environment of good governance which fostered strong, accountable relationships between citizens and their elected officials. Lasting peace and economic growth were undermined when governments failed to provide "good governance, respect for human rights, or to uphold the law".

READ MORE: A timeline of Robert Mugabe's three decades in power

Peaceful, democratic transitions were important and contributed to stability in a country. "We encourage our African counterparts to address these many governance challenges, and in doing so unlock your country’s development potential," he said.

The Zimbabwean military took charge of the country on Tuesday when tanks rolled into the capital. Early Wednesday morning, the army seized control of state television ZBC and said it was acting against “criminals” surrounding President Robert Mugabe, but they insisted their actions were not a coup.