Arab leaders seek greater co-operation to tackle shipping piracy

24 October 2008
Arab leaders will meet in Sanaa, Yemen, in late October to agree to greater co-operation in battling piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden.

Officials from 10 countries will sign a memorandum of understanding before the end of October to share information and resources to better combat piracy.

They will discuss how countries can increase their naval presence in the region, although this will only proceed on a unilateral basis, rather than as a co-ordinated Arab military response. “We are looking for an Arabian solution, under the umbrella of the International Maritime Organisation, to follow up piracy and do anything required to stop it,” says one official at the Suez Canal Authority (SCA).

About 60 ships have been attacked this year in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Officials have become concerned that the surge in piracy, combined with the decline in shipping as a result of the economic crisis, could hit trade at the region’s ports.

The Yemen Coastguard has formed an anti-piracy unit of 1,600 Special Forces troops and 16 high-speed boats. Nato is also sending seven frigates to support US Navy vessels that are already in the area. India and several European countries have also pledged patrols.

“We hope the military solution could be controlled by the Arab countries, otherwise this foreign military build-up in the region could be destabilising,” says the SCA official.

The six GCC countries, as well as Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, will attend the summit.

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