The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Diamond Sanctions Divide EU

Photo: IRIN
A fresh produce market in Mbare, Harare.

THE European Union is divided over illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe's diamond mining companies, with Belgium pushing for the lifting of the embargo when the body meets for its annual review next week.

Belgium is home to the world's largest diamond trading hub, Antwerp.

Brussels argues that the situation in Marange has completely changed and sanctions on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation were no longer justified.

ZMDC operates five joint venture companies at the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

However, the illegal sanctions imposed by the US and EU on ZMDC, the Government's investment vehicle, have seen Zimbabwe getting lower returns from the gems.

Belgium's Foreign Ministry noted that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, a monitoring organisation set up to stem the flow of diamonds used to finance conflicts, had certified Marange gems as compliant adding the sanctions were counter productive.

"Experience has shown that, in this particular case, sanctions are counter-productive by diverting diamonds to less transparent markets," a ministry statement said.

The country has been forced to sell its diamonds at lower prices as a way of busting the sanctions.

EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Aldo Del'Ariccia acknowledged the debate on Zimbabwe.

"I cannot comment on the issue of divisions, but there are discussions still going on in Brussels regarding the matter.

"The decisions are unanimous at the end of EU meetings despite the fact countries could have different positions on the embargo. At the moment I cannot predict the outcome of the meeting to be held next Thursday," he said.

Last year, eight million carats were produced at Marange with the figure expected to double to 16.9 million carats this year.

The EU will meet on Thursday to review its illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu said the call by the Belgians was not surprising.

"It is not surprising at all because they benefit from our diamonds more than we benefit. All the world trade of diamonds is controlled from Antwerp and this issue about sanctions has been driven by Britain because of her hatred for Zimbabwe otherwise the rest of the EU have nothing to do with it," he said.

Belgium's call follows increasing concern over the global supply of diamonds amid reports of huge declines in production at leading miners such as De Beers as well as other companies in Canada and Russia.

Gem processors in India recently said they would be looking at Zimbabwe to help plug the gap in global supplies.

"As the rough diamond production at the world's leading mines is on the decline, Zimbabwe is the only hope for Indian diamantaires.

"It is only Surat, which has the skill to cut and polish the Zimbabwe stones," industry analyst, Aniruddha Lidbide, told an Indian publication recently.

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