An embargo on imports of Russian diamonds that the Group of Seven (G7) countries have been considering for over a year is expected to be approved in the next two to three weeks, a Belgian government official revealed on Friday.
The regulation would come into effect on January 1, imposing a direct ban on purchases, along with an indirect embargo that would be phased in gradually, the official noted.
Attempts to sanction Russian diamonds have met resistance from major gem importers such as Belgium, which is home to the world’s biggest diamond trading hub in Antwerp. Around 85% of the world’s rough diamonds pass through Antwerp on their way to consumers.
Belgian authorities had previously argued that imposing sanctions without building a global system to track the gems would be pointless, as trade would shift to other markets such as India and China.
In May, the G7 leaders pledged to restrict trade in diamonds mined, processed or produced in Russia in an effort to further cut Moscow’s revenues, claiming they would curb the $4.5 billion Russian diamond trade by using methods including high-tech tracing.
A diamond’s origin can only be traced at the start of the supply chain when the Kimberley Process certificate, designed to prevent the sale of so-called ‘blood diamonds’, is issued for a rough gem. Cut and polished stones which later flow through other markets and trading houses with ‘mixed origin’ documentation are notoriously difficult to track.
The purported indirect ban would introduce a tracking system that would include physical checks of packages with gems and compulsory traceability data for diamond producers and traders, according to the Belgian official. The measure is designed to restrict cross-border trade in Russian gems. Mixed-origin diamonds will be barred from the G7 market under the plan.
Western authorities will have access to a tracking system through a public ledger that is being developed and would be similar to the SWIFT international payments system between banks.
The US and UK have already banned imports of Russian rough diamonds, although Washington still allows the import of gems extracted in Russia if they have been substantially altered in other countries. Canada and New Zealand have adopted similar measures against Russian mining giant Alrosa.
Meanwhile, Moscow has pivoted its diamond trade to the markets of China, India, the UAE, Armenia, and Belarus which have all seen a sharp increase in rough and cut stones from the sanctioned country.
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