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The EU is set to move ahead with a long-stalled ban on Russian diamonds next week after securing sufficient backing from the G7 group of developed nations, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief.
Diamonds are one of the few major Russian exports still untouched by EU sanctions imposed in response to President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, due to extensive wrangling over how any embargo would work effectively.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, told the Financial Times that a two-day meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Japan that ended on Wednesday gave support to the move, clearing a critical hurdle that European countries including Belgium — one of the world’s largest diamond traders — had demanded.
“In order for [EU] member states to be unanimous for the ban on diamond trade, some were requesting that the G7 were giving, let’s say, political coverage,” said Borrell.
“Well, this has been done and the co-ordination has worked and we will be able to put the package of sanctions in front of [foreign ministers on Monday],” he added.
Ukraine and several central and eastern European allies have long demanded that the EU ban trade in the precious gemstone, in addition to sweeping measures banning or reducing Russian exports such as oil, coal, steel and gold.
G7 leaders in May agreed to restrict trade and use of Russian diamonds, including by using tracing technologies. But efforts to impose legal EU measures stalled as Belgium argued that a simple ban on Russian stones would just divert trading away from its city of Antwerp, the global diamond hub.
Belgian officials had called for full G7 support for an arrangement that would implement a global standard to certify rough and polished diamonds which would allow all traders to identify Russian-produced gems.
Borrell said the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US this week agreed to “reduce the revenues that Russia extracts from exports”, and explicitly cited “non-industrial diamonds, including those mined”.
Russia is the world’s largest producer of rough diamonds by volume, with exports totalling $4bn in 2021, according to trade statistics. More than 80 per cent of global rough diamonds are traded through dealers in Antwerp.
The global natural diamond jewellery market is estimated to be worth $74bn in 2023, according to independent analyst Paul Zimnisky.
The EU diamond sanctions will be part of the bloc’s 12 rounds of sanctions against Moscow. Officials have said the new sanctions package will also include new import and export bans, measures to tighten the effectiveness of the existing price cap on Russian crude, and targeting of entities in third countries that are helping Russia circumvent trade restrictions.