UN top envoy welcomes EU's anti-piracy force for Somalia

Other News Materials 13 November 2008 17:25 (UTC +04:00)

The UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah has welcomed the agreement by European Union member states to send ships to combat piracy off Somalia, now regarded as the world's most dangerous seas.

"I am extremely pleased by the EU's decision," said Ould- Abdallah in a statement issued in Nairobi.

"Piracy off the Somali coast is posing a serious threat to the freedom of international navigation and regional security. It has led to increased prices of food and fuel which have had a direct impact on the lives of the poor in the region. It also poses a serious threat to the environment through attacks on oil tankers and other ships," he said.

The European Union agreed on Monday to deploy an air and naval force off the coast of Somalia to guard sea lanes against piracy, reported Xinhua.

Pirates have been causing havoc in one of the world's most dangerous waters of the Somali coast, which connects Europe to Asia and the Middle East.

They have taken millions of dollars in ransoms, raised insurance costs and threatened humanitarian supplies.

"The EU agreement is an important and timely move and I am hopeful it will have a positive impact on this terrible scourge," the UN envoy said in a statement.

The EU's naval mission, planned to be in place by next month, is expected to protect vulnerable vessels of the coast of Somalia and the delivery of aid.

Ould-Abdallah said that the force would need strong and credible rules of engagement to ensure it was effective.

NATO has already sent a fleet to protect food shipments to Somalia and other countries have sent warships.

The EU force is expected to put into practice UN Security Council Resolutions 1838 and 1816 in June, allowing ships to enter Somali waters to combat piracy.

Current EU president France said the mission was approved as expected at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Ten EU nations have said they will contribute to the EU operation, due to be launched next month and expected to involve four to six ships at any given time, as well as several maritime surveillance aircraft. It will have an initial one-year mandate.

Ould-Abdallah said his office was organizing an international conference on piracy at ministerial level on Dec. 3 in Nairobi. A large attendance is expected.

"I hope all Somali patriots will give their full support to efforts to end the piracy which is tarnishing their country's image," the UN envoy said.

"It is not up to individuals to carry out law enforcement -- this is the responsibility of government institutions. We hope the implementation of the Djibouti Agreement will help Somalis to restore security and safety on land and sea."

There have been more than 80 such attacks so far this year, including 32 hijackings, compared with 31 attacks in 2007, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau. More than 500 crew members have been taken hostage so far this year.

Under the protection system, two vessels loaded with a total of 18,500 metric tons of WFP food arrived safely in Mogadishu from the Kenyan port of Mombasa on Oct. 26 under the escort of the Dutch frigate HNLMS De Ruyter. HNLMS De Ruyter is due to escort WFP ships to Somalia into December.

NATO and Dutch naval vessels are continuing their escort missions in November to Mogadishu and Merka.