Ukraine seeks role in EU anti-piracy patrols off Somalia

14:42, 09 December 2008
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At least eight member states will participate in the operation

Ukraine expressed on Tuesday its desire to join the European Union`s naval task force protecting ships in the Gulf of Aden against Somali pirates, according to RIA Novosti.

Operation Atalanta was given the green light on Monday by EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. At least eight member states will participate in the operation to prevent pirate attacks on merchant ships, with six warships and three spotter planes due in the area by next Monday to take over protection duties from four NATO vessels.

Ukraine`s Foreign Ministry hailed the EU decision to begin the operation, adding that they were "looking at possible forms" for Kyiv`s involvement. A Ukrainian cargo ship, the Faina, carrying 33 T-72 tanks and other heavy weaponry, was seized by Somali pirates on September 25.

"The EU`s Operation Atalanta is a very important element of international efforts to ensure maritime security and prevent and counteract the piracy that has led to the hijacking of many commercial ships and huge economic loss," the ministry statement said.

For a year, vessels from at least eight countries - Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden - will escort aid ships and carry out anti-piracy duties under British Admiral Phillip Jones.

With a headquarters near London, the fleet will initially be led off the coast of Somalia by Greek Admiral Antonios Popaioannou, with a Spaniard and then a Dutch officer taking over after three month terms.

"The rules of engagement are very robust, with the possibility of using all means including force to protect, to deter and to prosecute all acts of piracy," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

Somali pirates have attacked at least 90 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of around 39 vessels, including 200 crew members. The east African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991.

RIA Novosti

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