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Eyes on Belgium as some EU states push for Russian diamond ban

The European Union must stop importing diamonds from Russia, five of the bloc’s 27 countries said in a joint proposal seen by Reuters, as the EU
prepares new sanctions against Moscow for waging war against Ukraine.

September 26, 2022
By Gabriela Baczynska and Philip Blenkinsop
26 September 2022

By Gabriela Baczynska and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS, Sept 25 (Reuters) – The European Union must
stop importing diamonds from Russia, five of the bloc’s 27
countries said in a joint proposal seen by Reuters, as the EU
prepares new sanctions against Moscow for waging war against
Ukraine.

The EU, which has so far implemented six rounds of sanctions
since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, needs unanimity to
agree any such ban that Belgium – home to the world’s biggest
diamond trading hub Antwerp – has rejected in the past.

The bloc was spurred into fresh action after President
Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilisation last week
and moved to annex parts of eastern Ukraine.

The EU’s executive European Commission is expected to
present a formal proposal for more sanctions to member states
this week.

Poland, Ireland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia proposed
introducing a retaliatory ban on imports of diamonds from
Russia, where Alrosa is the world’s largest producer
of rough gems.

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre said sanctions would take
away some 30% of business and benefit rival trade hubs, adding
clients should be allowed to decide themselves if they wanted
Russian gems.

Belgium’s foreign ministry and the diplomatic representation
to the EU did not respond to requests for comment.

But on Sept. 14, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told an
international diamonds conference that such a ban would be a
“huge loss” and would hurt an industry accounting for 5% of
Belgium’s exports and supporting some 30,000 jobs.

An EU official and a diplomat involved in preparations of
new measures against Russia said, however, that Belgium was now
expected to lift its veto.

Following the Commission’s proposal on new sanctions,
diplomats and ministers will negotiate until they reach
consensus, failing which the matter goes to the 27 national
leaders when they meet in Prague on Oct.6-7.
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Emelia
Sithole-Matarise)

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