EU diplomat on a regional anti-piracy tour

08:32, May 19, 2010      

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The European Union senior diplomat Catherine Ashton is on a regional tour that will take her to Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles to seek ways of curbing rampant piracy off Somalia's coast.

A statement from the EU office in Nairobi said on Tuesday that Ashton, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the European Commission, is visiting Kenya, Tanzania and the Seychelles on May 18-21. "HR/VP Catherine Ashton will meet Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula," the statement said. "While in Nairobi, she will also meet the President of the Somali Transitional Federal Government Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. "

The statement said the EU top diplomat will meet Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. In the Seychelles, she will also participate in a regional ministerial conference on piracy to discuss with the countries in the region common efforts for a more effective response to challenge of piracy.

The EU is building up a comprehensive engagement in Somalia, with a view to responding to the priority needs of the Somali people and stabilizing Somalia.

The EU said it was committed to a regional approach, based on regional ownership and EU support for the countries in the region in their efforts to ensure the prosecution and detention of suspected pirates.

The EE has concluded transfer agreements with Kenya and the Seychelles. Agreements with other countries in the region are under discussion.

Ashton's visit came after Kenya said it will hold a meeting this month with international community to find ways of resolving a row over the prosecution of Somali pirates.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said the meeting will focus on the financial support arguing Nairobi could no longer manage the strain on its over-populated prison and congested court systems.

Early this year, Nairobi formally announced it wished to stop the prosecution of suspected Somali pirates and cancel the agreements it has to that effect with several countries from Asia and Europe.

The foreign ministry had sent "cancellation notes" to at least two of those powers' diplomatic representations in Nairobi, arguing it could no longer bear the burden on its prison and court systems.

The minister accused the international community of failing to keep up its obligations in sharing the burden in prosecuting and imprisoning the detained pirates.

Kenya's proximity to Somalia prompted insurance companies to hike up their premiums for ships traveling to Kenyan ports to mitigate the increased insecurity.

This led shipping companies to take the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope while traveling to the Kenyan ports, with cost of doing business on the Kenyan coast going up by over 40 percent.

The agreements allowing foreign naval powers to hand over suspects to Kenya instead of taking them back home for prosecution include financial support from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Kenya shares its southern border with Somalia, whose coastline has been infected with piracy in recent years.

More than 130 pirate attacks were reported in the waters off Somalia from the beginning of this year.

Pirate attacks off the Somali coast have continued despite the presence of warships deployed by navies of the NATO, the European Union, Russia, China, South Korea and India in the region to protect cargo and cruise ships against piracy. Enditem



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