and Regional Affairs |
& Commentry |
UNITED NATIONS December
17, 2008 (AFP) — The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted
a US resolution authorizing for the first time international operations
against pirates on land in Somalia.
The text, co-sponsored by Belgium, France, Greece, Liberia and South
Korea, is the fourth approved by the council since June to combat
rampant piracy off Somalia's coast.
Resolution 1851 authorizes for one year states already involved in
fighting piracy off Somalia to "take all necessary measures that are
appropriate in Somalia" to suppress "acts of piracy and armed robbery at
Unlike previous resolutions, the current text empowers states combating
piracy to conduct operations on land in Somalia.
However to overcome objections from countries such as Indonesia, the
sponsors dropped an earlier reference in the text to "ashore" or
"including in its (Somalia) airspace."
The vote took place at a high-profile ministerial session attended by US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Chinese deputy foreign
minister He Yafei and UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Rice hailed adoption of the resolution, saying it sent a "strong signal
to combat the scourge of piracy" and stressing the need "to end the
impunity of Somali pirates."
She also announced that Washington intends to work with partners to set
up a contact group on Somali piracy and underscored the importance of
addressing the root cause of the Somali piracy problem, referring to the
insecurity and lawlessness in the Horn of Africa nation.
She said that though Washington was committed to continuing backing the
African Union force in Somalia, it was time "to authorize a UN
peacekeeping operation" in the country.
Ethiopian troops, who intervened in Somalia in 2006 to prop up the weak
transitional government, will be withdrawn early next month, leaving the
ill-equipped and under-strength 3,400-strong AU force on its own to face
a resurgent Islamic rebellion.
The resolution also calls upon states and international organizations
"to establish an international cooperation mechanism to act as a common
point of contact between and among states on all aspects of combating
piracy and armed robbery at sea off Somalia's coast ... (and to
consider) creating a center in the region to coordinate information
relevant to piracy off the coast of Somalia."
Indonesia's UN Ambassador Marty Natalegawa however made it clear that
"the fight against piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia
needs to be undertaken in full compliance with international law, in
particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."
In his remarks, Ban welcomed the council's actions to combat Somali
piracy and said he would submit recommendations "on ways to ensure the
long-term security of international navigation off the coast of
But the UN boss stressed the need to address the broader security
challenge in Somalia.
He said the most appropriate response was "a multinational force (MNF),
rather than a typical peacekeeping operation."
Ban said he had approached 50 countries and three international
organizations for contributions to such a force.
He added that the council could explore the possibility of setting up a
maritime task force or adding to the current anti-piracy operations "a
quick reaction component."
Somali pirates hold at least 17 ships, including an arms-laden Ukrainian
cargo vessel and a Saudi supertanker carrying two million barrels of
NATO has also dispatched naval forces to the region, joining other
national navies in place, but increasingly bold and well-equipped
pirates have continued their attacks.
The pirates have carried out more than 100 attacks in the Gulf of Aden
and the Indian Ocean since the start of this year.
Meanwhile Nicole Widdersheim, head of the charity Oxfam International's
New York Office warned that: "efforts to tackle piracy and protect
commercial interests in the Indian Ocean should not be mistaken for
effective action to tackle the desperate humanitarian crisis in
"Expanding anti-piracy operations inside Somalia risks further
complicating the conflict and could exacerbate an already dire
humanitarian crisis," she added