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UN Finally Acts on Piracy in Gulf of Aden

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 05, 2008 01:57 PM

Published: 2008-06-05 13:57:38
Topics: Piracy & Security
Countries: Somalia

It may be just the first step, and nobody thinks they were thinking of the cruising sailor, but it was ground breaking stuff when the UN Security Council finally unanimously voted Monday to authorize states to enter Somalia's territorial waters to fight piracy, which it said has become a threat to international and regional peace and security.

The 15-nation council allowed states to use all necessary means to "repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea" that have gotten bolder recently with more ships being captured by pirates off the coasts of Somalia.

The resolution authorized states with naval vessels operating in the region to enter territorial waters of Somalia for the purpose of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in a manner consistent with such action permitted on the high seas with respect to piracy under relevant international law.

The council proclaimed that acts of piracy off the Somali coasts and on the high seas have become threats to international peace and security in the region. It invoked Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to authorize the fight against piracy, which in fact allows states to use force.

It called on naval vessels and military aircraft of states operating on the high seas and airspace off the coast of Somalia to be "vigilant" of piracy acts and armed robbery and try to deter those acts.

The authorization to fight piracy is good for six months.

States are called to cooperate with the transitional government in Mogadishu, which admitted helplessness in fighting piracy off its coasts. The authorization would apply only to the situation in Somalia.

The council called on states to cooperate with each other and with the International Maritime Organization, share information about acts of piracy and provide assistance to vessels threatened by or under attack by pirates or armed robberies.

African maritime officials said Somali pirates last week seized three cargo ships flagged to Gibraltar, Turkey and the Netherlands.

Piracy is rife off the Somali coast, which is close to key shipping routes. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says 31 hijackings and attempted hijackings were reported last year.