The Herald (Harare)

16 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Gems Exports to Belgium Hit Record High

ZIMBABWE'S diamond exports to Belgium have reached record levels, new Belgium ambassador Mr Maricon Johan said yesterday without revealing the figures.

In an interview with The Herald at State House soon after presenting his credentials to President Mugabe, Mr Johan said the EU sanctions, which he preferred calling restrictive measures, had not affected trade and bilateral relations between Belgium and Zimbabwe.

"Diamond exports from Zimbabwe to Belgium have now reached record levels," he said.

Belgium is the world's top diamond trader with recent indications showing that it exported 10 million carats in October, an increase by volume of 142,8 percent.

According to Antwerp World Diamond Centre, there was also a sharp increase in rough diamond exports from Belgium with the country trading 9,7 million carats worth US$1,16 billion also exported in October.

On EU sanctions on Zimbabwe, Mr Johan said: "We like to say what you call sanctions to us are restrictive measures taken by the EU as a whole, meaning that there was consensus among the 27 members. We regularly assess the situation."

He was hopeful that the EU would remove the illegal sanctions. The EU, which imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe is headquartered in the Belgian capital Brussels.

Mr Johan claimed that bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and Belgium were normal. "On bilateral ties, relations are normal. There are many students studying in Belgium and tourists are flocking to Zimbabwe," he said.

Belgium said last week that it was keen to fully engage Zimbabwe in a long term partnership to secure diamond supplies.

Speaking in Victoria Falls during the Zimbabwe World Diamond Conference, Antwerp World Diamond Centre board president Stephane Fischler said Belgium could not afford to ignore the emergence of Zimbabwe on the world market as a major diamond producer.

While Belgium is benefiting from diamond trade with Zimbabwe, the United States and its allies are working tirelessly to frustrate the country's efforts to realise full benefits from its Marange gems.

They are blocking the diamond sales citing false claims of human rights abuse.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has given Zimbabwe the green light to trade in its diamonds.

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