Belgium won’t back EU ban on Russian diamonds – official

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Belgium will never support a ban on Russian diamond imports to the European Union, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on Friday, adding that measures of this kind would only be effective if they were introduced globally.

The EU is working on its tenth round of sanctions on Russia over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. Poland and the Baltic nations are pushing to ban Russian diamonds from the bloc’s market, as well as other measures like cutting off more banks from the SWIFT payments system and restrictions on nuclear energy cooperation.

“We do not support the ban on supply of diamonds,” De Croo told journalists when asked about the proposed embargo.

De Croo said the supply volume of Russian diamonds to Belgium had dropped 80% since the imposition of Ukraine-related sanctions, but highlighted that Russian exports of precious stones as a whole had not declined.

“Steps of [this] kind should be taken only at the global level. It is necessary to create a system for tracking the origin of diamonds to make the sanctions really effective. Otherwise, diamonds will still find their way to the market,” the prime minister said.

In October, EU member states discussed a ban on imports from Russian mining giant Alrosa, as part of the eighth package of sanctions. However, the gem miner stayed off the final list that includes 29 individuals and seven legal entities.

The U-turn reportedly came after Belgium, home to the world’s biggest diamond trading hub in Antwerp, blocked the EU embargo, having warned that the move could cost thousands of jobs in the city.

According to official Belgian statistics, the country still imported €676 million ($734 million) worth of Russian diamonds in the second quarter of 2022, which then slipped to €154 million ($167 million) in the three months to the end of September.

Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond producer with a 30% global market share, has been placed on the US sanctions list. Washington has banned the importation of Russian rough diamonds, but still imports gems if they have been substantially transformed in other countries.

Belgian authorities are reportedly concerned about losing business to diamond trading hubs in India and the United Arab Emirates.

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