The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme on Thursday resolved the dilemma it faced in deciding whether to certify diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange field by reaching an agreement with the Harare government to allow export sales under a strict regime of monitoring and supervision, news reports said.
The deal was announced in St. Petersburg, Russia, where key members of the Kimberly Process met to grapple with the vexed question of Zimbabwean certification after the annual meeting of the World Diamond Council.
A larger Kimberly Process meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel, last month, failed to reach consensus on the issue, over which a shadow was cast by the June 3 arrest of Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, near the Marange field, on charges he published and circulated false information on operations there.
Zimbabwean and international human rights organizations say the military forces in control of the Marange field since 2006 have brutalized local residents and killed hundreds cracking down on unauthorized mining.
The Bloomberg news service said Kimberly officials will make two trips to Zimbabwe in August and September to certify diamonds mined in the disputed Marange field to clear the way for their international sale.
Bloomberg quoted Kimberly Process Chairman Boaz Hirsch of Israel as saying officials will use the first visit to assess diamonds produced from May 28 to the end of July, and the second to examine diamonds mined in August.
The certification of diamonds from Marange would enable Zimbabwe to resume sales that were halted in last November as the country failed to meet minimum Kimberly standards.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, in Russia for the meeting, said Zimbabwe has 6 million carats of diamond stockpiled for sale. Botswana, the world's biggest producer, mines some 18 million carats a year.
Mpofu assured the meeting Zimbabwe would comply with KP regulations. "Zimbabwe means business," Mpofu said. "We will adhere, we will comply. We will not let you down," Mpofu pledged.
Reporter Rob Bates of the jewelry industry website JCKonline said the agreement emerged after two days of tough discussions. "One hour prior to the agreement, some negotiators believed a deal was dead. But now the mood among WDC attendees is jubilant, as many feared Zimbabwe would leave the KP and render it meaningless.”
Earlier, VOA correspondent Gabe Joselow reported on the protracted negotiations in St. Petersburg in which the organization had to grapple with how its traditional mission of blocking the sale of so-called conflict diamonds which in countries like Sierra Leone were mined and marketed to finance armed insurrections.
Economist Eric Bloch welcomed Finance Minister Tendai Biti's declaration Wednesday that Zimbabwe must meet Kimberly standards, but expressed misgivings about his proposal to set up a state enterprise for the sector.