EU launches first-ever naval operation

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An initial EU force begins patrolling Tuesday (December 9th) in the Gulf of Aden. [Getty Images]

EU foreign ministers endorsed on Monday (December 8th) the launch of the 27-nation bloc’s first-ever naval operation, tasked with protecting ships travelling through the Gulf of Aden, where Somali pirates have attacked nearly 100 vessels this year alone.

On December 15th, the year-long EU NAVFOR mission, code-named Operation Atalanta, will replace the four-vessel NATO armada currently patrolling one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The EU flotilla will include six warships and three reconnaissance planes, with a total crew of 1,200. The eight contributing nations are Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Spain, and the Netherlands.

British Rear Admiral Philip Jones will co-ordinate the operation from his headquarters near London, while Greek Commodore Antonios Papaioannou will run anti-piracy activities in theatre.

Operating under a UN mandate, EU NAVFOR’s specific tasks include protecting vessels of the World Food Programme, as well as merchantmen cruising off the Somali coast.

It will also keep watch over areas in which there are dangers to maritime traffic and will take necessary measures aimed at terminating piracy and armed robbery

where it patrols.

"The rules of engagement are very robust, with the possibility of using all means including force to protect [against], to deter and to prosecute all acts of piracy," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday. The fate of any captured pirates, though, remains an open question.

"The EU is reviewing agreements whereby suspects could be taken by third countries that are willing and in a position to launch criminal proceedings," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told AFP.

India, Malaysia, Russia and the United States are among the nations that already have ships patrolling in the area, where piracy has surged since July.

Somali pirates are currently holding captive the crews of 14 hijacked ships, totalling 290 seamen. The Saudi supertanker Sirius Star was carrying oil worth more than 78m euros when pirates overpowered its crew last month, making it the biggest vessel ever hijacked.

Experts say the pirates have not only increased their attacks but have also significantly expanded their operational area in recent months.

"Previously the pirates were attacking off southern Somalia, but now you are seeing attacks 400 to 500miles (640 to 800km) from the Kenyan coast … and they are going even as far off as Tanzania," Noel Choong, head of the Malaysian-based International Maritime Bureau piracy reporting centre, told AFP.

Jones has indicated that the EU anti-piracy mission under his command could station armed guards on freighters seen as likely targets of hijacking.

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Posted by on Дек. 9 2008. Filed under Скандално. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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