Russia and West join forces to tackle trade in 'blood diamonds' despite feud over Moscow's diamonds

UNITED NATIONS — (AP) — The United States and its Western allies are feuding with Russia over its diamond production, but they joined forces Wednesday to keep supporting the Kimberley Process, which aims to eliminate the trade in “blood diamonds” that helped fuel devastating conflicts in Africa.

At a U.N. General Assembly meeting, its 193 member nations adopted a resolution by consensus recognizing that the Kimberley Process, which certifies rough diamond exports, "contributes to the prevention of conflicts fueled by diamonds" and helps the Security Council implement sanctions on the trade in conflict diamonds.

The Kimberley Process went into effect in 2003 in the aftermath of bloody civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia where diamonds were used by armed groups to fund the conflicts.

Zimbabwe’s U.N. Ambassador Albert Chimbindi, whose country chaired the Kimberley Process in 2023, said in introducing the resolution that it would renew the General Assembly’s “commitment to ensuring that diamonds remain a force for inclusive sustainable development instead of a driver of armed conflict.”

It was true in 2003 and “remains true now,” he said, that profits from the diamond trade can fuel conflicts, finance rebel movements aimed at undermining or overthrowing governments, and lead to the proliferation of illegal weapons.

The European Union's Clayton Curran told the assembly after the vote that the Kimberley Process "is facing unprecedented challenges" and condemned "the aggression of one Kimberley Process participant against another" — Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

For the first time in its history, last November’s plenary meeting of Kimberley Process participants failed to produce a consensus communique because of serious differences between Russia and the West.

The key reason was a Ukrainian request, supported by the United States, Britain and others, to examine whether Russia’s diamond production is funding its war against Kyiv and the implications for the Kimberley Process which Russia and several allies strongly opposed.

Russia refused to support a communique that acknowledged Ukraine’s request. And before Wednesday’s vote, the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s economic department, Alexander Repkin, accused Western countries of sabotaging international cooperation on diamonds for “their own geopolitical interests.”

Alluding to sanctions on Russian diamonds by the European Union, Repkin accused the West and its companies of trying to gain a hold over the global production and processing of diamonds.

He said “the further functioning of the Kimberley Process is at stake,” but Russia will do everything it can to support its work.

He noted that the plenary communique has served as the foundation for the General Assembly resolution on the role of conflict diamonds in fueling conflict but without one the resolution approved Wednesday “is largely technical in nature.”

The EU's Curran urged reform of the process “to broaden the definition of `conflict diamonds’ to capture the evolving nature of conflicts and the realities on the ground.” He said the EU will also try again this year to discuss the issue of the negative impact of the illegal trade in diamonds on the environment.

Britain expressed regret at the failure to discuss the link between Russia’s rough diamond revenue and their invasion of Ukraine, and reiterated the need for a discussion to ensure that the Kimberley Process deals with issues related to delinking diamonds from conflict.

United Arab Emirates deputy ambassador Mohamed Abushahab said it’s more important than ever to strengthen the Kimberley Process, which his country is chairing this year.

The UAE has identified three ways: to establish a permanent secretariat which was approved at the end of March in Botswana’s capital Gabarone, to complete a review and reform of the process by the end of the year, and to identify digital technologies that can strengthen the Kimberley Process, he said.