UN Security Council approves land, air operations in Somalia

December 17th, 2008 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Dec 17 (RIA Novosti) The UN Security Council has unanimously voted in favour of a resolution approving anti-piracy operations on Somalia’s territory and in its airspace. The vote Tuesday represents growing international concern over the increasing number of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia. Despite a large international naval presence in the country’s territorial waters, two ships were seized Tuesday - an Indonesian tugboat and a Turkish cargo ship.

According to the US-drafted resolution, countries and regional organizations involved in tackling piracy are authorized to “undertake all necessary measures in Somalia, including in its airspace” to prevent “acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”

The resolution will be in force for one year.

The resolution urges states and organizations to establish “an international cooperation mechanism to act as a common point of contact among them on all aspects of that fight” the UN said on its website.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists later that no air or land operations were planned in Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991.

“Anti-piracy operations can be carried out on land and in airspace, but no specific requests for such an operation have been received so far,” the minister told journalists.

He added that the resolution “just lays the international legal basis for such actions with the authorization of the (transitional) government of Somalia,” while “specific procedures and mechanisms to coordinate international actions have yet to be drawn up.”

Pirates have been increasingly active in the waters off east Africa, where over 120 ships have been attacked till date this year, with around 35 vessels, and their 600 crew members, seized.

The navies of at least 10 countries are involved in anti-piracy operations off the coast of the East African nation.

In early December the European Union launched a naval task force, dubbed operation Atalanta, to patrol the waters off the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean in an attempt to protect international shipping. The year-long operation involves six warships and three surveillance vessels from eight countries.

It is still unclear which countries would contribute to any possible military operation in Somalia.

Although the resolution sets up the possibility of a military operation, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the likelihood of US troops being deployed in Somalia in the future, even as part of a UN peacekeeping contingent.

In 1993, the US withdrew its troops from Somalia after two of its helicopters were downed and 18 military personnel killed.

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