UAE brokers deal for Central African Republic to recommence diamond exports

The Central African Republic (CAR) will soon be able to recommence exports of diamonds following a deal between its government and producers brokered by the UAE in Dubai on Thursday.

The African country, rich in diamonds but bedevilled by civil strife, has been unable to export the stones since 2013 due to concerns about security.

After a day-long series of meetings chaired by Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman for 2016 of the global diamond regulator the Kimberley Process, an agreement was struck between the CAR’s minister for mines, Joseph Agbo, and Viken Arslanian, an executive of Sodiam, the CAR’s main diamond miner.

Mr Bin Sulayem is also executive chairman of the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre free zone.

He said: “The effective resumption of exports from CAR was one of the main priorities of the KP chairmanship 2016 and I am particularly proud that we have been able to break the deadlock that has obstructed effective exports for so long.”

Before CAR, one of the world’s poorest countries, ceased diamond exports, trade in the stones accounted for 40 per cent of its exports and provided a living for at least 1 million of its 4m population.

Although stones have been mined, mainly at the country’s Berberati mine, by Sodiam since then, it has been impossible to export them under the rules of the KP banning trade in “conflict diamonds”.

Parts of the country have suffered violence in sectarian clashes between Christians and Muslims.

But following national elections, president Faustin-Archange Touadera will take office next month in a significantly improved security environment.

Following United Nations’ reports that the security situation in CAR was improving, KP officials last year recommended a resumption of diamond exports, but administrative wrangles held up the process.

Sodiam said it might be forced to close down operations in CAR in view of the uncertainties around future exports.

Resumption of diamond exports in the CAR will be a boost for its impoverished economy. A visit by KP officials earlier this month found that living conditions in Berbarati were a “matter of enormous concern and require an immediate solution”.

The officials also found that the area around the town were under “appropriate and sufficient” government control.

The deal on Thursday represents a second significant success for the UAE’s KP chairmanship. Last month, Mr Bin Sulayem was able to announce plans to readmit Venezuela to the KP process, after an eight-year absence, were under way.

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