Diplomats v Pirates

The Philippines is the latest country to join intensified diplomatic efforts in the United Arab Emirates to support the international fight against maritime piracy.

Upon the initiative of the Indian diplomatic mission, Dubai-based diplomats held their first meeting last Sunday. India’s Consul-General, Sanjay Verma, stated that “Our first meeting was held on Sunday and the consul-generals of Yemen and the Philippines participated. All affected countries’ consul-generals plan to meet frequently.

The meeting is said to be a consequence of the release of 11 Indians and 14 other crew members of the Rak Afrikana last week. Several of the crew were Filipino mariners and  had been held for 332 days before being released and safely transferred to Mombasa.

The Philippine Consul-General in Dubai, Benitto Valeriano, commented that “Almost every ship that crosses the Indian Ocean has a Filipino officer or crewmember. We are happy that India is doing a lot in combating piracy and protecting seafarers. We will cooperate with all nations in this matter.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently stated that 107 Filipino seafarers onboard 10 vessels have been held captive by pirates.

Verma told journalists that the diplomats had explored ways to safeguard ships and sailors from the growing threat of Somali pirates. Discussions were also focused on means of releasing those who are still being held captive.

We have started informal consultations very recently, sharing our experience and ideas,” Verna told local media, adding that heads of missions from Tanzania, Bangladesh and Pakistan are also expected to join forces soon.

International Conference on Piracy

According to several diplomats the difficulties surrounding the pirating of a ship require international cooperation, the same holds true as regards the necessity to work together in order to curb the menace of piracy.

Verma has commented that “The ship may carry the flag of one country, but the company managing it might be in some other country. The owner could be a citizen of another country and the crewmembers generally comprise people from various countries“.

The Tanzanian Consul-General to Dubai, Ali Ahmed Saleh, told local journalists that “We are looking positively and eagerly for the international conference on piracy that the UAE is going to host in April,” adding that “We think such a conference could go a long way in addressing the root cause of piracy — the instability in Somalia. The UN interventions in Somalia should be given more support to restore stability in Somalia and tackle the issue of piracy.

In an effort to bring together foreign dignitaries and industry experts to discuss a regional response towards a joint approach against maritime piracy, the UAE Foreign Ministry are organizing a conference from April 17 to 19 2011.

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Mark Lowe, Wednesday 23 March 2011

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