Red Sea nations condemn pirates, vow action

By: cnn.com
By: cnn.com

(CNN) -- Red Sea nations in the Arab League met in Egypt's capital on Thursday to coordinate a common strategy against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

The Egyptian government hosted the meeting, which was attended by representatives of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Jordan, and Djibouti. A Somali transitional government official was also there.

The group issued a communique condemning all acts of piracy.

The communique said Arab nations around the Red Sea were principally responsible for security there and recommended establishing joint mechanisms between those countries to ensure the safety of shipping.

The group welcomed international and regional support in fighting piracy, and stressed the importance of coordination between the Red Sea Arab nations and regional and international bodies.

It also said Arab countries in that region should be open to having dialogues with other parties about the fight against piracy.

"We did not touch upon the military aspect, but we touched upon aspects related to promoting coordination, consultation and exchange of information, as well as focusing on the importance of regional arrangements, with particular reference to the establishment of the regional maritime center in Yemen," said Ali al-Ayashi, Yemeni deputy foreign minister.

The communique emphasized the importance of strengthening Arab and African cooperation to fight piracy and noted the respect the group has for the sovereignty, unity and independence of Somalia.

Wafaa Bassem, Egyptian deputy foreign minister and chair of the conference, said "the international community in the short term should help and support the transitional government of Somalia and the Somali people with humanitarian, economical and political support to be able to prevent piracy acts in this region."

The Gulf of Aden, which lies between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, is the gateway to the southern Red Sea, which is linked to the Mediterranean Sea by the Suez Canal.

Egypt has a lucrative industry from the shipping traffic in the Suez Canal, but it is concerned about shipping firms pursuing other routes to avoid the Gulf of Aden.

One Norwegian shipping firm, Odfjell SE, has ordered its vessels to avoid the waters off the Horn of Africa.

That decision means that Odfjell SE's 90-plus ships will take the additional time and expense to sail around the southern tip of Africa instead of going through the Suez Canal, a shortcut for mariners for nearly a century and a half.

Going around the Cape of Good Hope would add thousands of kilometers (miles) to a voyage from the Middle East to Europe or North America.


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