US Denies Intentions To Abuse KP Chair On Marange Gems

“I know that there is a bit of anxiety for Zimbabwe in that the US has just assumed the chair of the Kimberly Process,” US ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray said Thursday at a round table with local editors in Harare.

“In our capacity, it’s our intention to play a strong role of facilitation and we have no desire or intention to impose our decisions on anyone.”

Zimbabwe was in November last year finally granted the green light by the KPSC to resume trade on its controversial rough diamonds from Marange communal lands after a protracted fight with mostly western countries that labelled them conflict gems.

But the US immediately slapped two companies dealing with Marange diamonds with a trade embargo, something that was seen as violating the spirit of the KPCS process.

Fears abound the powerful western nation, which has, since 2001 maintained sanctions on selected Zimbabwean individuals and firms, may seek to abuse its new role on Zimbabwe.

But Ambassador Ray said the chairmanship of the KPCS was independent of the US foreign policy.

“The KP has an effective arrangement in place regarding Marange and its clear to us that there is a strong commitment to Zimbabwe, the monitoring team, the US and other KP members to somehow allow that process to continue,” he said.

“Working together with the Vice Chair, South Africa, we will be seeking the input of the membership to reform the KP as an appropriate to ensure that it addresses the new and emerging dynamics in the
global diamond trade.”

Ambassador Ray’s remarks come in the wake of Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s letter to Washington remonstrating against the US decision to include the two companies, Mbada and Marange Diamonds in the list of Zimbabwean companies on its sanctions list.

Biti wrote in his December 19, 2011 letter, “…the US decision undermines the KPSC and its chairmanship of this body. A member must act in good faith. One cannot in one forum act in one manner and then unilaterally undermine the collective decision taken at the common forum. It would also be curious to find out the motive of your decision against the two companies.”

Turning to his relations with Zimbabwean officials in the aftermath of the WikiLeaks revelations last year, the US envoy admitted relations have gone sour and thanked those who have braved “stigmatisation” to maintain the US-Zimbabwe relationship.

“I really applaud the people here who have taken the risk of engaging the big bad US ambassador and other American officials. I know some people see talking to me and other US officials as being disloyal to Zimbabwe and trust me there are still some people in Washington who are still cynical about talking to Zimbabwean officials again.”