Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Somalia News Update: Warships to Patrol Off Coast; German Ship Hijacked; Security Council Pushes for Talks

TUESDAY, JUNE 03, 2008
9:20 MECCA TIME, 6:20 GMT

Warships to Patrol Coast off Somalia

The waters off Somalia have been labelled by the west as the most dangerous in the world

The UN security council has unanimously adopted a resolution allowing foreign warships to enter Somalia's territorial waters to fight piracy.

The resolution was adopted on Monday with the consent of the Somalia's UN-backed transitional government.

Resolution 1816, under discussion since late April, was adopted by the council's 15-member nations, after the sponsors reassured Indonesia, initially against the proposal, that the anti-piracy drive would specifically target Somalia.

Jakarta had raised concerns that measures adopted to tackle piracy off the Somali coast should not set a precedent for international intervention in its own piracy-prone waters.

Piracy problem

"The issue of piracy is beyond our present means and capabilities," said Abdullahi Yusuf, the Somali president, in a speech to council envoys in Djibouti prior to the vote in New York.

The waters off Somalia - which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years - are considered to be among the most dangerous in the world.

Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been hijacked for ransom off the Somali coast over the past year.

Somalia juts out into the Indian Ocean and commands access to the Red Sea, a key global trade route used by thousands of ships each year.

The resolution gives a six-month mandate to states co-operating with the interim government in fighting piracy to "enter the territorial waters of Somalia for the purposes of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea".

Co-ordinated effort

It also urges states whose naval vessels and military aircraft operate on the high seas and in airspace off the coast of Somalia "to increase and co-ordinate their efforts ... in co-operation with the TFG [transitional federal government]".

According to Alejandro Wolff, a US envoy, the French had "wanted to highlight the scourge of piracy as a global problem".

However, the resolution affirmed that authorisation for action "applies only with respect to the situation in Somalia," and should "not be considered as establishing customary international law...."

It was originally sponsored by France, the US, Britain and Panama, under whose flag many merchant ships sail.

Twelve other concerned countries that are not on the council later signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution, including Japan, South Korea and Spain.

Source: Agencies

Navies to Patrol Somali Waters

The UN Security Council has unanimously voted to allow countries to send warships into Somalia's territorial waters to tackle pirates.

The resolution permits countries that have the agreement of Somalia's interim government to use any means to repress acts of piracy for the next six months.

Twenty-six ships have been attacked by pirates in the waters in the past year.

The vote came as the UN launched separate peace talks with factions involved in Somalia's conflict.

But the Islamist opposition said face-to-face talks would not happen at the meeting in neighbouring Djibouti until the government set a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, who are supporting the government.

Rife piracy

Somalia's coastal waters are near shipping routes connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and the country's government is unable to police its own coastline.

Consequently, piracy is rife off Somalia's 1,800 mile-long coast, says the BBC UN correspondent Laura Trevelyan.

The resolution was drafted by France, the US and Panama.

Our correspondent says France originally wanted to expand the motion to allow piracy to be tackled in other areas, such as West Africa.

China, Vietnam and Libya said they voted for the measure because it only applies to Somalia, and does not affect the sovereignty of other countries.

But diplomats say the Security Council action is significant because it is using the force of international law to allow navies to chase pirates and armed robbers.


On Monday, Security Council envoys met representatives of the Somali government and the opposition at a luxury hotel on the shores of the Red Sea.

The talks, which are being held in Djibouti because Somalia is deemed too dangerous, are part of a UN plan to broker the first official direct talks between the Somali rivals.

But Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, deputy head of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) said it would not agree to face-to-face talks until a timetable was in place for the Ethiopians to leave Somali territory.

"The Ethiopian presence is the main obstacle to [the] peace process, and the main obstacle to reach a lasting solution for Somalia," he said.

The Ethiopians helped the government oust Islamists from Mogadishu in December 2006.

But President Abdullahi Yusuf says there would be a security vacuum if the Ethiopians withdrew before being replaced by UN peacekeepers.

"I am willing to do whatever it takes to promote peace and stability in Somalia," he said.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

An Islamist insurgency there has been mounting almost daily attacks on the weak government, which is backed by the United States, because Washington believes the Islamists are associated with al-Qaeda.

The UN says almost two million Somalis desperately need assistance.

A small contingent of African Union troops is in Mogadishu but has done little to quell the violence.

The talks are being boycotted by the hard-line al-Shabab militia, blamed for many of the attacks on government troops and their Ethiopian supporters.

The UN mission is due to travel to South Sudan on Tuesday.

It is also scheduled to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, where millions of people have been displaced by fighting in the east of the country.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/02 23:03:59 GMT

Somalia: German shipping company says pirates captured its vessel

Mon. June 02, 2008 08:59 am.
By Bonny Apunyu

(SomaliNet) A German shipping company confirmed on Friday that its vessel the MV Lehmann Timber is one of two hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia earlier this week.

The Lehmann Timber was attacked late Wednesday in the Gulf of Aden, Lehmann GmbH shipping company said in a statement.

"The owners continue to maintain regular contact with the vessel and all 15 members of the crew are well in view of the circumstances,'' said Gustav Jakobsen, who spoke for the company.

"All efforts to secure the safe and timely release of the crew and the vessel are being made,'' Jakobsen said.

The Kenya-based East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program first reported the ship was one of the two hijacked Wednesday but had no further information.

The company released no details regarding the nationality of the crew members.

Piracy is rampant along the 1,880-mile (3,025-kilometer) Somali coast. Pirates have attacked 26 ships off the Horn of Africa already this year. The coastline is located near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.-AP

DJIBOUTI 2 June 2008 Sapa-AP


The U.N. Security Council sought Monday to push Somalia's fragile government toward direct peace talks with the opposition, holding separate meetings with both sides in neighboring Djibouti.

The fact that the talks could not take place in Somalia because of the lack of security reflected the enormous challenge in trying to reconcile the government and its Islamic opponents.

In a sign of the security threat, Islamic insurgents fired mortar shells at Mogadishu airport as the plane carrying Somalia's transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf, and his delegation was about to take off Sunday for Djibouti.

"I think the rocket attack that happened last night when the
president was leaving is in fact an indication that we need to move fast in trying to create conditions in Somalia for getting out of this security dilemma that they are in," said South African U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo.

No one on the president's plane was hurt and it took off safely shortly after the attack, said presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed Mohamud, but there were unconfirmed reports of two minor injuries at the airport.

Kumalo, who is co-leader of the Djibouti visit, wanted
representatives from the U.N.'s most powerful body to visit Somalia on their six-nation cross-African trip. But U.N. security experts vetoed a stop in the conflict-wracked country, which has been in a state of anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

After Siad Barre's ouster, the warlords turned on one another, sinking the poverty-stricken nation of 7 million people into chaos.

The visiting U.N. delegation wants to hear from both sides about how they plan to move forward and about "the prospects for the reconciliation process," said British U.N. Ambassador John Sawers, who is leading the mission with Kumalo. "We're here largely to listen."

The two sides have not met face to face yet, Sawers said.

"This is the second round of their talks. The first round was a sort of a proximity talks, so we'll want to encourage the two parties to engage directly with one another," he said.

Regional countries mediated agreement on a transitional government in 2004, but it remains very weak and needed to call in troops from neighboring Ethiopia in December 2006 to oust Islamic militants who controlled the capital and most of southern Somalia.

The Islamic insurgents, nonetheless, remain a potent and disruptive force in the country and a continuing threat to Yussuf's government, which is backed by both the European Union and United States.

At least 14 previous attempts to get all the rival Somali parties to form a stable government have failed.

But at least in some quarters there was greater optimism about the new round of talks in Djibouti under the auspices of the U.N. envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, and with Security Council members there for support.

The council delegation was met at the airport by senior Djibouti and U.N. officials. Their first stop was to meet with Djibouti's prime minister.

"Our hope is that the mere fact that the council is here sends a message also to the people of Somalia that at least the international community cares about them. I think that's very important," Kumalo said.

Representatives from Somalia's armed insurgent group al-Shabab, who are battling Somalia government forces and their Ethiopian allies, were not participating in the meetings in Djibouti.

Kumalo said, however, that the talks were a good starting point.

"You're never going to have all the parties involved from the word go," he said. "But those that are involved have to create the conditions that will attract more people to come into it. ... You have to start somewhere and this is a great start."

However, a top official in the opposition Alliance for the
Re-Liberation of Somalia, based in Eritrea, expressed a pessimistic view before the start of the meetings.

The official, Zakariye Haji Mohamoud, called the Djibouti talks "part of a clear, ongoing conspiracy against Somalia pushed by the U.N. special representative for Somalia."

"It's aim is only to derail or break the backbone of the insurgency against the Ethiopian occupiers and their stooges," he said.

The transitional government has been lobbying for U.N. peacekeepers to replace a 2,600-strong African Union force now in Somalia. In early May, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution saying it will consider deploying U.N. peacekeepers "at an appropriate time," subject to progress in improving political reconciliation and security conditions on the ground.

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