Piracy prompts Spain to support call for free passage for navy

24th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

The crew of fishing boat is still held after the boat was seized by pirates off the Somali coast on Sunday.

24 April 2008

MADRID - Spain on Wednesday said it will support France, the United States and Britain in pressing for a United Nations resolution that would authorise their navies to go after pirates anywhere in the world after a Spanish fishing boat was seized by hijackers off the Somali coast at the weekend.

"We support this initiative," Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos told reporters. "We need to establish a mechanism of control and surveillance over waters where pirates operate."

Spain has sent four military aircraft to the area off the Somali coast where the Playa de Bakio, a Spanish tuna fishing boat with 26 Spanish and African crew on board, was seized by pirates armed with grenade launchers on Sunday.

The planes, fitted with hi-tech surveillance equipment, will operate out of a French base in neighbouring Djibouti.

"We have to send a message of strength to the pirates and of security to the families of the fishermen," Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos argued.

In addition to the aircraft, a Spanish warship is "just hours away" from the Somali coast, Moratinos said, while a Spanish special forces team is also believed to be preparing to travel to the area should a rescue be needed.

For the time being, however, Spain is concentrating on trying to negotiate a solution to the hostage crisis and has sent its ambassador in Kenya, the country's top diplomat in East Africa, to Somalia to begin discussing the hostages' release. He met on Wednesday with the prime minister and other officials in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

"For the moment the pirates have not made any demands - we don't know what they want. First we have to listen," Moratinos said.

The hijacking of the Spanish fishing boat follows the seizure of a French yacht by pirates off Somalia earlier in April. The crew were released unharmed after a ransom was paid. France subsequently sent in special forces to capture the pirates and recover the money.

[El Pais / A.E. / M. Gonzalez / Expatica]

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