The price of an impasse on the thorny issue of Zimbabwe’s diamonds would be “very costly,”  Kimberley Process Chairman Boaz Hirsch said following the first day of the KP plenary meeting in Jerusalem.

Hirsch said that the KP was a “consensus-based process” that had faced challenges in the past, before Zimbabwe became a hot-button topic.  As examples, he cited “special regimes” in other African countries and in Brazil.

When asked if a solution on Zimbabwe could be reached during the four days of the KP plenary, Hirsch said he hoped so, but that he was looking for action rather than declarations.

When it came to Zimbabwe, Hirsch explained, a third franchisee had recently started operating. Hirsch said that conditions “within the fence” were fairly well understood and that the KP was essentially conducting probes – taking material from the review mission and translating it from the review mission to the level of a working community.

“Hopefully by consensus,” Hirsch added.

The KP chair asked those present how could progress be measured and deemed “sufficient.”

When asked where the KP had seen advancement on the issue of Zimbabwe diamonds, Hirsch said he preferred not to go into details but that KP Monitor for Zimbabwe Abbey Chikane had said that diamond mining operations “within the fence” were “good quality.”

Asked to clarify his position that an impasse on Zimbabwe would be “costly,” Hirsch explained that an impasse meant uncertainty, which he said was bad for any industry (Hirsch also serves as Israel’s Deputy Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor.) Uncertainty, he said, could affect investment and/or exports.

“At the end of the day, when you have a process based on consensus and it’s lacking, it’s bad for the situation,” he said.

Hirsch said that the four days of the conference would have ups and downs – like a roller coaster, he said, and some would enjoy the ride more than others.  He added that he would like to see a course set for the implementation of policy, efforts, and endeavours of all parties to continue to everyone’s satisfaction.

The Kimberley Process comes to assist in creating prosperity, and that should be an item on the agenda, Hirsch stressed. “The KP wants to see diamonds serving to leverage the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

What legacy would Israel leave as outgoing KP chair? Hirsch said Israel should be remembered as a “vigilant” chair that spared no effort, and said that he wanted to know that when he left at the end of December, Israel had done its best to “enhance and strengthen KP credibility.”

Hirsch also reframed the current Kimberley Process role as a “preventive” one. Bloody wars being financed by conflict diamonds make dramatic headlines, he explained, making it easier for the KP to prove it was needed.

However, he said, the KP had been successful in preventing trade in conflict diamonds, making its own role a preventive one. “I would rather prevent bloodshed before it occurs than after,” he declared.

When asked how the KP viewed harsh rhetoric and threats of self-suspension, Hirsch said that while some of the rhetoric was disturbing, he put more stress on actions.