The European Union is urging nations from outside the bloc to join the EU"s anti-piracy naval force off Somalia.
The European Union is urging nations from outside the bloc to join the EU"s anti-piracy naval force off Somalia, the fleet"s commander said. ?We are in talks with countries that want to contribute that have the potential to double the size of the force,? Admiral Philip Jones said today at a news conference in Brussels. The EU yesterday formally approved Operation Atalanta, the 27-member organization"s first naval mission. The force will try to suppress piracy in an area more than three times the size of France.
Somali pirates have attacked about 120 boats in the region this year, successfully seizing at least 40 vessels.
The negotiations on joining Atalanta include Asian, Middle Eastern, African and non-EU nations in Europe, Jones said. Japan was specified by Jones as being in the talks, while Norway, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have said they may send ships.
So far, the EU"s naval force will average six warships and three maritime patrol planes, Jones said. Frigates from Britain, France and Greece are already in place, soon to be joined by German and Italian gunboats. French and Spanish planes are at the French military base in Djibouti.
Indian and Russian naval patrols in the area are unlikely to join the mission, though they will coordinate their activities with the EU fleet, Jones said. ?They have different mandates,? he said. Djibouti Base Jones, 48, a rear admiral in the U.K."s Royal Navy, will command the operation from Northwood, near London, while the ships and planes will use the French facilities in Djibouti as their base. The fleet commander will be Greece"s Antonios Papaioannou, who will be replaced after four months by a Spaniard and then by a Dutch officer.
One EU warship at a time will escort World Food Program ships to Somalia, where a third of the population lives off aid. The rest will be deployed where needed, Jones said. The EU force will place armed marines aboard the escorted WFP ships, he said.
The pirates operate along Somalia"s Indian Ocean coast, as well as in the Gulf of Aden, a transit point for the 20,000 ships a year that use the Suez Canal.
Among the ships the pirates are holding are a Ukrainian cargo ship with T-72 tanks and a Saudi tanker with 2 million barrels of oil.
A Dec. 2 United Nations Security Council resolution gives naval forces the right to use ?all necessary means to suppress piracy,? both in Somali and international waters, and to destroy the pirates" ships and weapons. Jones wouldn"t specify his fleet"s rules of engagement.
?We have the right to use proportional force,? he said. ?At every stage of engagement, I have very clear rules that allow us to act in a determined way.?
He said decisions on what to do with captured pirates will be taken on a case-by-case basis. In recent months, pirates have been turned over to Kenyan, Yemeni and Somali authorities. France is the only country that has taken them to Europe to stand trial.
The EU will not operate on Somali soil, he said.
A naval force can never eradicate piracy, Jones said, which can only be done on-land by a stable government, which Somalia hasn"t had since 1991.
?The area is so large we could have hundreds of ships and still there would be gaps in our surveillance,? he said. ?A naval force in itself can"t completely suppress piracy. There are many elements that lead to piracy, and we can only deal with one part of the problem.?