The UN Security Council on Tuesday extended for another year its authorization for countries to enter Somalia’s territorial waters, with advance notice, and use “all necessary means” to stop acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.
Council members plan a follow-up session on Dec. 16 to allow US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to address the council on Somalia’s pirates, council president and Croatian Ambassador Neven Jurica said.
That trip to New York, her last before US President George W. Bush leaves office next month, may also include a Middle East Quartet meeting a day earlier, council diplomats said.
Virtually all the world’s nations have powers under the 15-nation council’s unanimous resolution — lasting until Dec. 2 next year — to repress the increasingly brazen pirates off Somalia. Before acting, however, nations must first have the approval of Somalia’s weak UN-backed government, which also must give advance notice to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Diplomats said such sweeping authorizations are needed to stop the piracy off Somalia, which threatens humanitarian efforts and regional security and seems to be growing ever more audacious and technologically sophisticated.
“It is also posing a potential threat to the world economy,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui (張業遂) said. “In the long run, it will do harm to Somalia and its people as well.”
The resolution extends a six-month measure first approved in June that granted authorization to foreign ships to enter Somali waters when fighting piracy and armed robbery along the country’s 3,025km coastline, the continent’s longest.
A maritime official said on Tuesday that pirates chased and shot at a US cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board but failed to hijack the vessel as it sailed along a corridor patrolled by international warships.
The London-based International Maritime Bureau, which fights maritime crime, could not say how many cruise liners use the waters.
International warships patrol the area and have created a security corridor in the region under a US-led initiative, but attacks on shipping have not abated.
On Tuesday, a NATO warship prevented a swarm of more than a dozen pirate boats from hijacking five merchant shipping vessels in the Gulf of Aden, the alliance said in a statement.
Alerted by a distress call, the Italian navy destroyer put itself between the ships and a group of pirate “fast boats,” with all vessels using water hoses to repel the pirates.
The Luigi Durand de la Penne, also used its helicopter against the pirates, dispersing their attack, a NATO official said.
“This is probably the biggest multiple, coordinated attack we’ve seen,” the official said, adding that more than 12 pirate boats were involved, perhaps as many as 20.
“There were so many of them, that it was more important to protect the motor vessels than to go after these dispersing boats,” the official said, on the sidelines of talks between NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
“These attacks are more and more brazen,” he said, adding: “The bottom line is: this is a busy part of the world.”
The vessels under threat were the Hambourg Star, flagged out of Liberia, the Hong Kong registered Overseas Hercules, Iranian flagged Iran Esteghlal, the Sea Queen from Singapore and the Alexander Sibum flagged in Antigua and Barbuda.