The world’s largest producer of diamonds intends to seek full legalization of the diamond market in the Central African Republic (CAR) while chairing one of the world’s leading bodies that works to remove conflict diamonds from the global supply chain.
Speaking in an interview with RIA Novosti, Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseev said that the volume of the CAR’s illegal diamond mining exceeds 300,000 carats annually, adding that sanctions have only worsened the situation.
“The Central African Republic had mined about 350,000 carats per year before the sanctions,” said Moiseev. “The official figure is now 39,000 carats. These are diamonds passing through green zones. We wonder what has happened to the rest?”
“We suspect that production still stands at the pre-sanctions volume. So, almost all this volume, namely the difference between 350,000 and 39,000 carats, enters global markets in the form of smuggling and is not considered by the Kimberley Process,” Moiseev said, referring to the multilateral mechanism that works to prevent rough diamonds from being used to finance wars against governments. “And the proceeds are at the disposal of criminals.”
CAR was a major exporter of diamonds until 2013, when the Kimberley Process banned shipment of its rough diamonds in order to limit the ability of armed groups to finance their activities through diamond sales. Although the ban was partially lifted in 2016, the country has been divided into two areas: so-called green zones located in the western parts of the country through which the export of diamonds is allowed; and red zones, located in the CAR’s north and east, controlled by anti-government armed groups, where the sanctions are still in place for diamonds mining.
Today, Russia has a global competitive edge that allow it to hold leading positions in the diamond production and in the value of mined diamonds. For the second time, Russia will be chairing the Kimberley Process, which Moiseev thinks will result in CAR’s diamond production operations moving back into the legal fold.
“The mechanism should be developed in cooperation with the Central African Republic’s government and the working monitoring group,” Moiseev said, while condemning the current ban, saying it only hurts the poor.
“Secondly, these bans simply discredit the Kimberley Process, as a large amount of produced and circulating diamonds is barred from the legal market,” Moiseev said, noting that diamonds from the so-called red zones enter the market anyway.
The Kimberley Process is a group of 82 countries that includes the United States, the European Union, Russia, China and all major diamond-producing nations, formed to prevent conflict, or blood, diamonds from funding armed conflict. Founded in 2000 in Kimberley, South Africa, it provides control over export and import operations covering up to 99 percent of the global diamond turnover. Today, the Kimberley Process appears to be the main global platform for regulating the turnover of rough natural diamonds.
Russia has deepened its ties with African countries following sanctions being imposed on it by the United States in 2014. The Russia-Africa Summit, held last month in Sochi, was interpreted as Russia flexing its muscles on the world’s second largest continent. The event was co-chaired by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt, who also chairs the African Union.