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International Struggle Against Piracy Comes Ashore in Somalia
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing nations to partner with Somalia&#39;s Transitional Federal Government to take action against pirates operating in its territory. <br /> <br />"History has demonstrated again
The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing nations to partner with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government to take action against pirates operating in its territory.

"History has demonstrated again and again that maritime operations alone are insufficient to combating piracy," says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In one of the Bush administration's last major foreign policy initiatives, Rice traveled to the United Nations to support the December 16 measure, drafted by the United States and co-sponsored by France, Liberia, Greece and Belgium, which authorizes nations to take "all necessary measures" to stop anyone using Somali territory to plan or carry out piracy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband joined Rice at the Security Council for the 1550 vote on Resolution 1851, the fourth anti-piracy resolution passed by the body this year, but the first authorizing action on land in Somalia, a country plagued for decades by violence, instability, poverty and warlord rule.

In 2008, Somali pirates have used speedboats to attack more than 100 ships passing through the Gulf of Aden--one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, crossed by 21,000 ships per year traveling from the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. Among 40 vessels seized this year are the Faina, a Ukrainian freighter carrying $33 million in ammunition and heavy weaponry, and the Sirius Star, a Saudi supertanker transporting $100 million worth of crude oil.

The pirates are currently holding 14 vessels and more than 250 crew members from 25 countries for ransom in pirate-controlled Somali ports, according to the International Maritime Organization.

Maritime experts believe the Somali pirates receive targeting tips from contacts working in regional ports. They estimate pirates have received more than $100 million in ransom payments this year. The money has allowed pirates to consolidate their hold on coastal communities, as well as upgrade weaponry, equipment and vessels to take on larger ships further out to sea, as seen in a recent attempt on Ocean Nautica, a British cruise ship carrying nearly 700 tourists that eluded capture.

"This is a cancer and it's growing," said Abdi Awaleh Jama, an ambassador-at-large for Somalia's transitional government. "We have to extract it once and for all."

Efforts to combat piracy have been complicated by restrictions against following the pirates ashore, as well as legal questions surrounding authority to act against pirates in international waters. Naval patrols have seized pirates only to release them ashore in Somalia, while others have cornered seized vessels but avoided endangering civilian crews by attempting to board the ships to arrest the pirates.

"The international community already has sufficient legal authority and available mechanisms to apprehend and prosecute pirates, but sometimes the political will and the coordination has not been there to do so," Rice said.

Six U.S. Navy warships have been active in the hunt for pirates in recent months, joined by naval forces from Denmark, France, India, Malaysia, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Under NATO's Operation Allied Provider, Italy, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom have conducted naval escorts and surveillance patrols since October 2008 at the request of the United Nations, and have protected eight ships chartered by the World Food Programme to deliver 30,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Somalia.

The NATO force is being augmented by new missions approved December 8 by the 27-nation European Union, which will bring in additional ships and personnel from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

China may also deploy its naval forces to the region in the coming weeks, according to official media reports. "The Chinese government supports the international community's decision to cooperate on the piracy problem according to international law and the U.N. Security Council's resolutions," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said December 16.

The United States will form a contact group on piracy to help improve international naval coordination, encourage shippers to boost security, and help regional states build the legal capacity to prosecute pirates. "Piracy currently pays. But worse, pirates pay few costs for their criminality," Rice said.


The piracy problem underlines the larger challenge of stabilizing Somalia, Rice said. She urged U.N. members to consider a new U.N. peacekeeping mission for the troubled nation.

"Piracy is a symptom. It's a symptom of the instability, the poverty, the lawlessness that have plagued Somalia for the past two decades," Rice said.

The United States has contributed $67 million to train and equip a six-nation African Union peacekeeping mission, which has requested a U.N. mission to help them support the struggling transitional government. The government faces major challenges from feuding clan-based militias, many of whom are involved in piracy, as well as extremist groups with known links to al-Qaida.

Troops from neighboring Ethiopia, which has tried to restore order in Somalia since 2006, are planning to withdraw in the coming weeks, threatening to further worsen an already fragile security situation. "The conditions may not be auspicious for peacekeeping, [but] they will be less auspicious if chaos reigns in Somalia and we have to turn at some point to peacemaking," Rice said.

The United States will work with countries to build support for a future U.N. mission, Rice said, as well as help Somalia address illegal fishing and offshore dumping that has led many former fishermen to turn to piracy.

"Once peace and normalcy have returned to Somalia, we believe that Somalis can start down a path to real economic development. Offering the Somali people an alternative to piracy and criminality is, in the long run, the best sustainable strategy for combating piracy," Rice said.