Antwerp Told the Conflict Trade is Over

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(Rapaport…October 8, 2002) The world’s leading diamantaires said they are winning the war against conflict diamonds at the opening of the Antwerp Diamond Conference yesterday, the Associated Press reports.

“We are now in the post-conflict diamond era,” said Peter Meeus, director of Antwerp’s High Diamond Council (HRD) — even though implementation of the Kimberley Process of diamond certification is nearly three months away at best.

De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer also spoke of the illegal conflict diamond trade in the past tense.

“The specter of conflict diamonds threatened to unfairly tarnish the industry,” Oppenheimer said. “One diamond used to fund conflict was a diamond too many.” He estimated that fewer than four percent of diamonds were traded illegally to fund bloodshed in Africa at the worst point of the crisis.

More than 40 nations are expected to sign onto the Kimberley certification plan during a November meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland. But not all differences as to how stones should be certified as conflict-free have been resolved. The United States government, for example, is ready to enforce Kimberley starting January 1 under existing trade laws — and with the backing of key groups such as the Diamond Dealers Club (DDC) in New York.

But many in Antwerp are concerned the European Union (EU) will go beyond the Kimberley mandate agreed to by participating states, leading some to wonder if their businesses will survive new regulation. Activists and some African leaders insist all nations must implement Kimberley immediately.

“The diamond industry makes up three quarters of our exports and therefore our economy rises and falls with the diamond market,” said President Festus Mogae of Botswana.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore told conference attendees they are on the right track. “Your industry is embracing responsibility in a positive and constructive way,” he said.

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