France, Spain launch anti-piracy plan
The French and Spanish defence ministers begin EU military operations to fight Somali piracy.
3 November 2008
DJIBOUTI - The defence ministers of France and Spain on Sunday launched a European Union military operation to fight piracy off the Somali coast.
"This is the inception of the operation which will be formalised on 10 November" at a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brussels, French Defence Minister Herve Morin told reporters.
Accompanied by his Spanish counterpart Carme Chacon, he was speaking in Djibouti, where the pair were on a brief visit to consider multinational efforts to bring security to the strategic Somali waters and review their supply of weapons.
Both French and Spanish ships were among the at least 77 vessels attacked for ransom by Somali pirates since the start of 2008.
What French President Nicolas Sarkozy described as a "criminal industry" threatened to disrupt world trade with persistent attacks in the Gulf of Aden, through which 30 percent of the world's oil is transported.
The high-profile case of the September capture by pirates of a Ukrainian cargo loaded with weapons apparently destined for southern Sudan led the international community to take action.
France, which has a major military base in neighbouring Djibouti, is so far the only country to use its firepower against the pirates in April and September operations following hostage-takings.
Spain pledged two ships and one surveillance aircraft to the new operation, while France opened its base to the Spanish forces for logistical support.
Morin said Britain would take the command of the joint force and added that other contributions from Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden were awaiting final confirmation.
Experts warned however that sending foreign warships to such a vast area would not stop Somali piracy, which flourished in 2008.
Pirates argue that their attacks are in retaliation for foreign fishing navies dumping toxic waste in their waters.
They often cite France and Spain as among the worst offenders of illegal fishing.
[AFP / Expatica]