Marange diamonds to stabilise world market

The Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has expressed relief after a Kimberley Process resolution on the dispute of rough diamond exports from mining operations in the Marange region of Zimbabwe.

GJEPC said that Indian diamond industry, which processes around 95% of the world’s rough diamonds, is strongly committed to the Kimberley Process and the ongoing dialogue among different stakeholders including governments, the industry and civil society coalitions.

It said continued involvement results in an effective Kimberley Process Certification System, which gives confidence to millions of consumers across the world.

“This will not only stabilise the world diamond business by encouraging the traders to keep the illicit diamonds out of the system, but will also help millions of people of Zimbabwe to derive the fruits of their diamond wealth and create strong bonding with the workers on ground in India who eke out their living from cutting and polishing of diamonds,” said Rajiv Jain, GJEPC’s chairman.

The United States yesterday said it had agreed to a compromise allowing Zimbabwe to export diamonds human rights groups say are tainted by abuses, to prevent the paralysis of the global system for stopping trade in “blood diamonds”.

The US, Canada and the European Union dropped their objections and agreed to allow Zimbabwe to sell diamonds from its Marange field after verification by a Kimberley Process monitoring team, the World Diamond Council announced on Tuesday.

The Kimberly Process is an international government certification scheme set up in 2003 to prevent the trade in diamonds that fund conflicts.

The decision by the US, Canada and the EU was strongly condemned by human rights groups who maintain the Marange diamonds are tainted by abuses tied to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the US abstained from Tuesday’s vote, but chose not to block the measure, which she said still included provisions for oversight and reporting by civil society groups.

“We think this compromise might have been stronger and that’s why we abstained,” Nuland told a news briefing.

“So we judge that rather than having the entire Kimberley process deadlocked over Zimbabwe we would abstain, we would let this go forward.”

Under the agreement the Kimberley Process, which certifies revenues from diamond sales will not fund conflicts, will send two monitors to Zimbabwe in the next two weeks to assess and certify the diamonds.

Rights groups say there have been abuses in Zimbabwe against illegal miners, smuggling is rife and some mines in Marange remain in the hands of Zimbabwe’s military. President Mugabe’s government denies all these charges.

Last year, Zimbabwe was allowed by the Kimberley Process to sell a small amount of diamonds, but the US, Canada and EU said then that human rights issues still remained.

Nuland noted that the US maintains its own sanctions on Zimbabwe officials and government agencies including the parastatal organisation that oversees Marange diamond exports, meaning no US citizen could be involved in the trade.

She also said the onus was now on President Mugabe’s government to live up to its commitments under the Kimberley Process compromise.

“Previously we had no ability to affect Zimbabwe’s behaviour. With this compromise . . . we do have some eyes on this process, we have reporting requirements, we have civil society there which was a better situation than we’ve had in the past,” she said.

“So we need to test it now and we need to see if the (President) Mugabe government does indeed meet the commitments that it signed up to.”
—Reuters/Rapaport

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