Big Story 10

Russia to push for lifting limits on Central African Republic diamond exports

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia, as this year’s chair of an international body tackling the trade in conflict diamonds, will work to lift restrictions on the export of diamonds from the Central African Republic (CAR), deputy finance minister Alexei Moiseev said on Tuesday.

A total ban on diamond exports from CAR was imposed in 2013 but partially lifted in 2016, allowing CAR to resume sales of diamonds from five “green zones” where the government could certify the stones were conflict-free.

As the 2020 chair of the Kimberley Process, an 81-nation body that certifies ethical diamond exports, Russia will focus on helping the CAR government to improve its regulation of local diamond production with the aim of re-entering the export market, Moiseev said.

The Kimberley Process group defines conflict diamonds as those whose sales fund armed groups, but a project to broaden the definition is currently underway.

Moiseev said current restrictions had not affected CAR’s total output of diamonds, instead increasing the amount of diamonds sold illegally and generating profits for middlemen rather than local communities.

“That’s not what we want,” Moiseev said.

Russia may play a role in monitoring the situation on the ground as well, should it be invited by Kimberley Process members to do so, Moiseev said, although he added that African countries should lead the way.

Russia has been increasing its presence in CAR and across the African continent in recent years, signing multiple military cooperation deals and mining and energy agreements, as well as ramping up trade.

Moscow will also push for all Kimberley Process member nations to adopt legislation that distinguishes between natural and synthetic diamonds.

It will work on launching an electronic database of certificates that trace the origin of diamonds, helping customers to differentiate between natural and lab-produced stones, Moiseev said. The project could take at least five years, he added.

Major diamond miners, however, are increasingly turning to blockchain technology to attach digital fingerprints to diamonds to trace their route from mine to jeweler and ensure their origin is conflict-free.

Reporting by Polina Ivanova; editing by Kirsten Donovan