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Russia Is ‘Elephant in the Room’ as KP Session Ends

Jun 26, 2022 9:58 AM   By Rapaport News
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The status of Russian diamonds was the main point of contention at the recent Kimberley Process (KP) intersessional in Botswana, which closed Friday amid a stalemate over the issue.

Ukraine, the European Union (EU), Australia, the UK, Canada, the US and nongovernmental organizations pushed to put Russia on the agenda, Reuters reported last week during the meeting. However, Russia, backed by Belarus, Mali, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Kyrgyzstan, objected to the proposals, the report said, citing an official.

“A small group of participants have blocked all others from discussing the elephants in the room,” Michel Yoboue, coordinator of the KP Civil Society Coalition (CSC), which represents nonprofits, said Friday in his closing remarks. “These elephants are not only whether the Kimberley Process can keep certifying Russian diamonds as conflict-free, but also more generally how this process and its certification scheme can be made fit for purpose in breaking the link between diamonds and violent conflict.”

The matter is the latest topic to hit a hurdle because of the KP’s requirement for full consensus in order for action to happen. Expanding the definition of conflict diamonds to include stones involved in violence by governments — and not just by rebel forces — has been a matter of debate for years.

Ahead of the session, the CSC urged the KP to suspend Russia until it ended its invasion of Ukraine and called for a widened definition of conflict diamonds.

“This year, through our engagements with many government participants here in Kasane [Botswana], there seems to be strong support for further reforms, including that of the ‘conflict diamond’ definition,” said Edward Asscher, president of the World Diamond Council (WDC), which represents the industry at the KP.

Russian diamonds have been under the spotlight since the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The US and other Western nations placed certain sanctions on Alrosa and other Russian entities, but many Russian stones remain legal on American shores.

Consumers should “think twice when they are buying diamonds that can be of origin of Russia, because they are basically sponsoring the killings,” Liubov Abravitova, Ukraine’s ambassador to South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, told Reuters, referring to alleged atrocities that have taken place since the start of the war.

“At the KP intersessional meeting in Kasane…Russia’s delegation provided a detailed and comprehensive response to all groundless allegations,” an Alrosa spokesperson said Sunday.

Russia “absolutely condemns the orchestrated attempts of [the] CSC, backed by [an] absolute minority of some Western participants, to politicize the work of the Kimberley Process by deliberately distorting or even openly replacing its basic principles,” a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Finance said Tuesday in a statement to Rapaport News. “We deem it absolutely unacceptable to blur the profile of the KP.”

Update, June 28, 2022: A statement from the Russian Ministry of Finance has been added to this article.

Image: Rough diamonds. (Alrosa)
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Tags: Australia, Botswana, Canada, car, Central African Republic, Civil Society Coalition, Conflict Diamonds, CSC, Edward asscher, EU, European Union, Kasane, Kimberley Process, KP, Kyrgyzstan, Liubov Abravitova, Michel Yoboue, Mozambique, Rapaport News, Russia, Russian diamonds, sanctions, South Africa, UK, Ukraine, US, WDC, World Diamond Council
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