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US 'Deeply Disappointed' in Kimberley Process Meeting on Zimbabwe Diamonds

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that a consensus was not achieved by members on a text circulated by Kimberley Chairman Mathieu Yamba giving a green light to Marange exports

The U.S. State Department on Friday said it was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome with respect to Zimbabwean diamonds of a Kimberley Process meeting that concluded on Thursday in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that contrary to news reports, a consensus was not achieved by Kimberley members on a text circulated by group chairman Mathieu Yamba of the DRC. His administrative notice said two firms mining mining diamonds in the Marange could start exporting rough stones.

"The United States believes that progress with respect to [diamond] exports from the Marange area of Zimbabwe can occur solely through a mechanism agreed to by consensus among KP participants," the Nuland statement said.

“We believe that work toward a solution must continue, and that until consensus is reached, exports from Marange should not proceed," the statement said.

Yamba told a reporter for Agence France Presse that Zimbabwe can sell diamonds from Marange. He said at least two monitors will be on hand to monitor other mining concerns like Anjin, a Chinese joint venture partner with Harare, until Kimberley clears them for sales. But it remained unclear who would finance that monitoring process.

World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff said clarification is needed from chairman Yamba as to where matters stand on Marange stones. Izhakoff said he believes that the Kinshasa meeting ran out of time and no consensus on Marange was reached.

With a few amendments, Yamba's notice might be accepted by all participants, he said, but the agreement would have to recognize the importance of local non-governmental organizations, which he called "crucial part of any agreement."

"Basically when the chair does state something, he needs to get all participants to agree to it and have a consensus," Izhakoff said. He added that Yamba had failed to muster wide support for his text, which had been discussed by a working group on monitoring the previous night and accepted as the basis for further discussion.

A few hours after the inter-sessional meeting ended in Kinshasa on Thursday, Yamba e-mailed Kimberley participants the controversial notice that many still consider a draft. In an "explanatory note" accompanying the notice, Yamba wrote, "This is a compromise document stating the essential views expressed by each and everyone."

Yamba ended the note with a tacit acknowledgment that Zimbabwe has been exporting Marange stones: "Thus, on the basis of this document, Zimbabwe will continue exports."

Zimbabwe Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu told VOA that Harare will move to sell Marange diamonds. He said those who denied a consensus was reached wanted to save face.

Diamond activist Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, capital of Manicaland province where Marange district is located, said that Kimberley’s ability to monitor in troubled zones like Marange has been severely eroded.

"The monitoring aspect [of the Kimberley Process] has failed in this regard simply because the lack of consensus on Marange means there [are] going to be country-level decisions on what to do," said Maguwu. He said the KP is in a state of "paralysis."

Jewelers of America Associate Director of Public Affairs Susan Thea Posnock told VOA that its members will follow the US State Department's recommendations.

Now that the US has announced its position, the rest of the diamond industry is waiting to see what each individual country will decide regarding Marange diamonds.

Because South Africa has made clear that it stands by Zimbabwe and will allow imports of Marange diamonds, civic organizations worry that Marange stones exported to South Africa could be mixed with other gems and receive Kimberley certification.