Global body allows diamonds to move
PARIS — A global body created to curb trade in diamonds that finance conflict has agreed to allow Zimbabwe to export limited numbers of stones from fields where the military has been accused of violent human rights abuses and smuggling, representatives of the diamond industry and advocacy groups said Friday.
The agreement emerged Thursday at meetings in St. Petersburg, Russia, involving the World Diamond Council, an industry body, and a U.N.-backed group called the Kimberley Process, set up by countries, diamond industry representatives and advocacy groups to counter sales of so-called blood diamonds.
Widespread reports of human rights abuses and violence in the Marange diamond fields of eastern Zimbabwe have provided a critical test of whether the Kimberly Process can realize its aspirations of preventing illicit profits from fueling conflicts and abuse.
The deal provides for Zimbabwe to export two batches of rough diamonds before Sept. 6 under the supervision of monitors from the Kimberley Process.
The amount Zimbabwe is likely to earn from the sales was not immediately made known. According to news reports, the Mines Ministry in Harare has estimated the value of its stockpile to be as high as $1.7 billion, but there was no indication that the entire stockpile would be exported under the agreement. The area is so rich in deposits that it could help catapult the nation into the ranks of the world's top diamond producers, according to the head of a group of experts for the Kimberley Process.
The agreement was intended in part to head off Zimbabwean threats to export millions of carats of newly mined diamonds on its own, without the international group's seal of approval. Diamond traders had said they were worried that large-scale sales of uncertified Zimbabwean diamonds could destabilize the global trade. In June, an earlier meeting of the Kimberley Process ended in stalemate over the issue.
The deadlock prompted intense debate over whether Zimbabwe's exports should be given an international imprimatur, dividing Western nations and advocacy groups opposed to signing off on the diamonds and African nations supporting Zimbabwe's demand for certification of its stones from Marange.
In a statement late on Thursday, the World Diamond Council said experts from the Kimberley Process would visit Zimbabwe twice to review its qualifications for the certification of its diamond exports. Their report would determine whether the Kimberley Process would give its stamp of approval on further Zimbabwean sales of rough diamonds on the international market.