Monday, February 10, 2014

(NEWZIMBABWE, 'AGENCIES') South Africa urges US to lift sanctions
19/11/2013 00:00:00
by Agencies

AN international meeting to discuss rules curbing the sale of conflict diamonds has begun in Johannesburg, South Africa with a call for the United States to lift sanctions on Zimbabwean mines.

Representatives of 81 countries taking part in the Kimberley Process heard a plea from the South African chairman that the US follow the European Union's lead and allow Zimbabwe's return to fully fledged international trade.

South Africa's Welile Nhlapo, who currently chairs the rotating presidency of the diamond watchdog, congratulated the European Union for "its decision to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe" after the July 31 elections won by President Robert Mugabe.

"We hope that those who continue to maintain such sanctions will also be able to lift them because the lifting of these sanctions would assist Zimbabwe to bring stability and prosperity once again," he said at the start of the regulator's four-day talks in Johannesburg.

The EU in September lifted restrictions against the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the firm that controls Marange, one of the world's largest diamond fields.

Zimbabwe's Mines Minister Walter Chidakwa threw his weight behind the recommendations of the UN-backed Kimberley Process.

"Since the EU has removed sanctions on our diamonds, we are calling on the United States to remove sanctions so that we can be able to do as much business as possible," Chidakwa said.

The move by the EU allows the country to go back to trading at Antwerp, one of the world's largest diamond centres, in Belgium.

"I hope that in December we will be able to make a full comeback into Antwerp," Chidakwa said on the side-lines of the annual assembly.


However, Shamiso Mtisi, a representative of the civil society coalition at the KPCS criticised the organization for certifying Zimbabwe's compliance with its diamond sale benchmarks while ignoring the lack of transparency and accountability in the extraction and sale of diamonds in Zimbabwe.

ZMDC had been blacklisted in 2004 for allegedly channelling funds to Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

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