US counter-piracy official lauds UAE role, says other countries should share burden
A fall in maritime piracy from Somalia does not mean the threat has ended, the US said on Wednesday, lauding the UAE for taking the lead in bringing together nations to keep the pressure on the pirates, while pushing ahead with development in the country on the Horn of Africa.
Speaking to¬†Khaleej Times¬†on the sidelines of the third counter-piracy conference here on Wednesday,¬†Donna Hopkins, Coordinator, Counter Piracy and Maritime Security, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the US Department of State, said the UAE continued to play a positive role in tackling the phenomenon and keeping maritime routes in the region safe, but other countries should share the burden.
‚ÄúThis includes facilities for prosecution of the captured pirates, providing humanitarian aid for Somalia, establishing the rule of law and strengthening the military institutions in the country,‚Äù she¬† said. The GCC‚Äôs humanitarian intervention could prove crucial for Somalia to ensure piracy does not spread from its shores again. It would also promote political and social stability in the country, the US official said.
‚ÄúSomalia has a long way to go and there is an element of insecurity which persists. The military gains at sea which have been achieved by international navies like Eunavfor, CTF-51 and Nato should not be wasted,‚Äù said Hopkins, who also chairs the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
This Contact Group has more than 70 countries and institutions including the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union, the International Maritime Organisation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and departments and agencies of the United Nations.
The Group meets three times a year at the United Nations, while its four Working Groups meet regularly around the world to develop and implement national counter-piracy policies and programmes.
Counter-piracy strategies adopted by the group, while bringing down the number of attacks to nothing this year, have also helped jail some 1,140 Somali pirates in 21 countries.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs very important to continue aid, infrastructure and social development in Somalia and support the political process,‚Äù said Hopkins. She said maritime forces should continue their patrols to keep pirate activity under check, protect ships and ensure trade at sea remained unhindered.
Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda-backed militant group has been active in Somalia, carrying out attacks and even making an attempt on the life of President Hassan Shaikh Mahmoud. She dismissed a pirate-terror link and said pirate gangs were criminals who were in it for the money, not regime change or ideology.
‚Äò‚ÄòThe Somalia government is working hard to bring stability to the country in trying circumstances and are striving to give their people a better life. Our efforts should be to support them and countries like the UAE are showing how it can be done,‚Äô‚Äô the official said.
International Maritime Bureau figures show there are 57 hostages still being held by the pirates . ‚ÄúSome of them have been in captivity for three years and we are concerned about their safety. My understanding is that ransom negotiations are still going with their captors and we hope they will be released soon,‚Äù she added.
Despite the efforts being exerted by the international community to combat piracy on the Somali coast, the UAE still believes that maritime piracy is a serious global concern and we are convinced that success in the fight against maritime piracy will be the result of unifying the efforts of the international community for capacity building in the region, addressing its roots in Somalia and other similar environments. -¬†Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan UAE Foreign Minister
The fight against piracy is far from over. Even today, 57 sailors continue to be held captive. The consequences for these men and their families are devastating. The battle against piracy must continue. Building capacity must go beyond naval patrols on high seas. The UAE has reached out by supporting on ground initiatives in Somalia. -¬†¬†Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World chairman
Somalia leaves no stone unturned to free hostages while working towards eliminating piracy. It‚Äôs worth noting the remarkable progress in the reduction of piracy activities. This did not come easy and was only possible by the sacrifices of several parties. -¬†¬†Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud President of Somalia
Maritime piracy and armed robbery continue to pose a serious threat to freedom of navigation and safety of maritime region. In order to be effective, the international community must work together and actively pursue a comprehensive, fully resourced effort.-¬†¬†Dr Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh
We are conscious of the fact that piracy cannot be dealt with in isolation. It has ramifications in many areas and links with many illicit activities like money laundering, visa fraud, narcotics and gun handling.. We need to revamp international laws.¬† I would like to commend the UAE government for hosting such an initiative. -¬†¬†Prof G. L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs, Sri Lanka