UN lifts ban on diamond imports from Ivory Coast

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to lift a ban on importing rough diamonds from Ivory Coast.

A resolution adopted by the council immediately terminates sanctions imposed in 2005 on diamond imports from the west African nation. The council noted that the Kimberley Process, the international initiative that regulates the diamond trade, recognized last November that Ivory Coast had fulfilled its diamond certification scheme’s minimum requirements.

The Security Council maintained an arms embargo on Ivory Coast until April 30, 2015, with exceptions for the U.N. peacekeeping mission and disarmament efforts, and a requirement that the Ivorian government get advance U.N. approval for any arms shipments. It also maintained financial and travel bans until that date.

After an attempted coup sparked a civil war in 2002, Ivory Coast was split into a rebel-controlled north and government-controlled south. A peace deal in March 2007 brought key rebel leaders into the administration, but deep divisions remained.

The country headed to the brink of civil war in early 2011 when then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat after losing a presidential runoff vote to Alassane Ouattara, who finally became president in May 2011.

Ivory Coast is the world’s leading cocoa producer and the world’s second-largest producer of cashew nuts. U.N. experts have said that hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost from smuggling and illegal dealings in these key commodities as well as timber, oil, gold and diamonds, and a parallel taxation system.

The Security Council called on Ivorian authorities to continue taking measures “to dismantle the illegal taxation networks.”

It welcomed the government’s “overall progress towards restoring security, peace and stability,” but expressed continued concern about instability in the west.

The council commended efforts by Ouattara and his government to stabilize the security situation, accelerate economic development, and strengthen international and regional cooperation, notably with Ghana and Liberia.

It called on all major players in Ivory Coast to address the underlying causes of tension and conflict and urged all illegal Ivorian armed combatants, including in neighboring countries, “to lay down their arms immediately.”

The council said the government urgently needs to train and equip its security forces, especially the police and gendarmerie, stressing that they must uphold human rights and international law.

The council encouraged Ivory Coast to host a Kimberley Process review of its diamond industry within nine months.

The diamond industry, rights groups, and 75 countries have worked together as members of the Kimberley Process since 2003 to impose requirements on its members to enable them to certify rough diamonds as “conflict-free,” so that purchasers can be confident they are not funding violence. The project was born after wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia that were fueled by so-called blood diamonds.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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