By Michelle Graff
New York--The United Nations Security Council has voted to lift the nearly decade-long ban on diamond exports from the Ivory Coast, freeing the country, which already has been cleared by the Kimberley Process, to re-enter the diamond trade.

Cecilia Gardner, general counsel to the World Diamond Council, which represents the diamond industry in the KP, said Wednesday that the lifting of the ban was the last hurdle to the Ivory Coast returning to the trade. The country already is a participant in the KP and received numerous monitoring visits during the embargo, the latest of which took place last year.

She said the country can begin exporting parcels of diamonds as soon as they have them ready. 

“There would be nothing at this point holding them back,” Gardner said.

The 15-member council voted unanimously to lift the ban on Tuesday, a decision made “in light of progress made towards the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) implementation and better governance of the sector,” the U.N. said.

The Ivory Coast, officially called the Côte d’Ivoire, still is required to update the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee on its progress in implementing an action plan to develop its diamond sector, including enforcement against illegal smuggling and reporting on the financial flows of diamonds.

The lifting on the ban comes just a few days after a report from the U.N. cited by Reuters alleged that diamonds were being exported in violation of the ban and possibly used to buy arms. 

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When asked if these recent reports would make the KP reconsider its position on the Ivory Coast, Gardner responded that the U.N.’s decision to lift the embargo is “pretty definitive to us.”

“The KP is unable to take any action based on information that has not been substantiated or what the U.N. itself did not act on,” she said. “We are delighted that Côte d’Ivoire is ready to reintegrate into the KP and we’re very sure this was enabled through the hard work of the KP itself to support the diamond office in Côte d’Ivoire to establish compliance with KP standards.”

The Ivory Coast was the only country in the world to have a U.N.-imposed ban on diamond exports. The U.N. put the embargo in place in 2005 following the country’s 2002-2003 civil war.  

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