Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the Antwerp diamond industry in an address to the Belgian parliament Thursday [March 31], accusing it of prioritizing profit over peace, according to media reports.
“There are people for whom Russian diamonds sometimes sold in Antwerp are more important [than Ukraine’s war effort],” Zelensky said in remarks that the Associated Press cited. “People for whom accepting Russian ships in their ports, and for whom the income from these ships is more important than our struggles.”
Belgium has not placed sanctions on imports of Russian diamonds following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, reasoning that any measures would result in the stones reaching the market via other trading centers. So far, the European Union has only banned the sale of diamonds and other luxury goods to people in Russia.
“I believe that peace is way more valuable than diamonds, than the deals sealed with Russia, than the Russian ships [allowed] in ports, than Russian oil and gas,” added Zelensky, who was speaking through a French translator. He called on Belgium to provide weapons, implement sanctions, and support the admission of Ukraine to the EU, according to AP.
However, only a global ban on Russian diamonds would achieve the intended goal, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) argued. A local boycott would cause excessive harm to the Belgian trade, it said.
“Countries such as the [United Arab Emirates] and India have made their intentions very clear, and both are ready to take over the Antwerp diamond trade in a heartbeat,” a spokesperson for the AWDC said in a statement to Rapaport News. “Not only are thousands of jobs in Antwerp at stake in the short term, but moreover, in the long term, this decision will inevitably lead to a global shift in the diamond trade with severe repercussions in many respects.”