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

Diamonds are pictured during an official presentation by diamond producer Alrosa in Moscow, Russia February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

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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 having fought a war against Ukraine.

The EU, which has so far implemented six rounds of sanctions since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, needs unanimity to agree to such a ban as Belgium – home to the largest world center of diamond trading, Antwerp – rejected in the past.

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

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

Poland, Ireland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have proposed introducing a retaliatory ban on diamond imports from Russia, where Alrosa is the world’s largest producer of stones precious raw.

The World Diamond Center in Antwerp said the sanctions would remove around 30% of business and benefit rival malls, adding that customers should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want Russian gemstones.

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

But on September 14, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told an international diamond conference that such a ban would be a “huge loss” and hurt an industry that accounts for 5% of Belgian exports and supports some 30,000 jobs. .

An EU official and diplomat involved in preparations for new measures against Russia, however, said Belgium must now lift its veto.

Following the Commission’s proposal on new sanctions, diplomats and ministers will negotiate until they reach a consensus, failing which the matter will revert to the 27 national leaders when they meet in Prague on 6 and 7 october.

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Written by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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