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Press Conference on Work of Contact Group on Piracy off Somali Coast

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

28 January 2010

The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia this morning formally adopted a mode of cooperation between China and the Western naval coalition patrolling the Gulf of Aden, Carl Salicath, its Chairperson, said at Headquarters today.

“This cooperation is open for any nation that patrols these waters in order to prevent piracy,” Mr. Salicath said at a press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Norway. Some countries escorted their own ships in convoys, as China had done before the agreement. “This will make the patrolling more efficient,” added Mr. Salicath, a Senior Adviser to Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Contact Group was holding its fifth plenary meeting at Headquarters today, he said of the mechanism for political coordination in the fight against piracy off the Somali coast, noting that pirate action had risen sharply in the region over the past few years. The coalition patrolling the threatened areas included the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), involving ships from 23 nations.

Chinese cooperation with those forces had been the topic of discussion within the Group for a long time, he said, adding that the operational details had been worked out through the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) system facilitating multinational counter-piracy efforts. The venue of cooperation would be the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) in the Gulf of Aden, which the International Maritime Organization (IMO) had endorsed in March 2009.

Also this morning, the Contact Group had resolved to ensure that all shipping companies followed the best-management practices developed by IMO and adopted by the Contact Group in 2009, he said. “There are almost no ships that actually follow the best-management practices being captured in the Gulf of Aden. Our challenge is that there are ships that still don’t follow these practices,” he said, explaining that 70 to 75 per cent of ships now followed them.

This afternoon, he said, the Group was expected to approve the Trust Fund set up to help countries in the region fight piracy, the main purpose of which was to build capacity in their criminal-justice systems so they could prosecute suspects. It was a multipurpose fund administered with the United Nations, he added.

In response to questions about the Fund, Mr. Salicath said that some nations that had captured pirates following attacks on vessels bearing their flags had indeed brought them to trial, but that was not always possible or optimal. There had been no discussions about establishing an international court to try piracy suspects. All there had been was some consideration of setting up an international chamber in an existing court system within the region, but those discussions were in their early stages.

Asked how much money had been pledged for the Trust Fund and by whom, he said he did not know all the details, although he did know that the Fund would have “a good amount to start with”. Norway had pledged €0.5 million and this morning, Japan had announced one for around $0.5 million. However, there were a “good number” of other pledges, he said.

Other items on the Contact Group’s agenda this afternoon were a communications strategy and a possible means of recovering ransom money from the pirates after they had released their captives, the Chairperson said. The Group acknowledged that the long-term solution to piracy off the Somali coast lay in creating a stable and economically viable Somalia.

Asked whether the Contact Group was addressing some of the economic complaints raised by Somalia’s coastal residents, such as over-fishing by international trawlers, which had left them destitute and encouraged them to become pirates, Mr. Salicath said such root causes would have to be addressed within the wider international efforts to assist Somalia. However, a working group within the Group, concerned with local capacity-building, had considered providing assistance for the creation of an economic zone that would include the Somali coast, but that had not advanced very far.

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For information media • not an official record

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