Swiss to use military to protect ships against piracy

December 22nd, 2008 - 8:04 am ICT by IANS  

Berne, Dec 22 (DPA) Switzerland is to protect its ships near the Horn of Africa by military means, Swiss President Pascal Couchepin said in an interview published Sunday in the weekly SonntagsZeitung.”There is no solution other than to send some soldiers if our ships are threatened,” Couchepin said. “We have no other choice. Do you want to go to the pirates and say: ‘Stop, we’re neutral - please highjack that ship over there’?”

Switzerland’s merchant navy contains around 35 freighters and tankers with some 600 mariners.

A decision by the government has not yet been made, as the juridical questions have to be clarified. Military personnel participating in such an action, however, would be volunteers.

“It is no an act of war, but a police action for the protection of Swiss ships,” said Couchepin, who is also minister of the interior.

Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, is also considering sending elite troops to join the EU’s Atalanta operation to protect ships in the area. In exchange, the EU would be ready to escort Swiss ships.

In the past week, a Swiss freighter was pursued by pirates for the first time, although no attack occurred.

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