By Helen Reid
JOHANNESBURG, June 16 (Reuters) – Russia, supported by Belarus, Central African Republic, Kyrgyzstan and Mali, has torpedoed a Western-backed proposal to discuss whether its diamonds are funding war ahead of an international conflict diamond meeting in Botswana, letters seen by Reuters show.
The rift in the Kimberley Process (KP), which certifies rough diamond exports, risks paralyzing the body which makes decisions by consensus.
The letters, which have not been previously reported, show a dispute over a proposal by Ukraine, the European Union, Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and whether to broaden the KP’s definition of conflict diamonds to include state actors at its June 20-24 meeting in Botswana.
The United States and Britain have already placed sanctions on Russia’s Alrosa (ALRS.MM), the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds, which accounted for around 30% of global output last year, and is partly state-owned. read more
A draft agenda dated May 20 included an hour-long slot to discuss the issue, but the item was removed after objections from Russia, Belarus, Central African Republic (CAR), Kyrgyzstan, and Mali.
“We find ourselves at an impasse,” Botswana’s KP chair Jacob Thamage told participants – who include 85 nations, industry representatives, and civil society organisations – in a June 9 letter urging them to find common ground.
The KP defines conflict diamonds as gems used to fund rebel movements seeking to undermine legitimate governments.
Officially labelling Russian diamonds “conflict diamonds” would require widening the definition. The KP Civil Society Coalition has been calling for such a change for years, along with some KP member countries.