Frattini: Italy stands with Somalia

June 10, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Posted in Africa | Leave a comment
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Piracy off Somalia is only the “tip of the iceberg” in the multiple crises facing the Horn of Africa country, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday.

“Piracy is only part of the problem, the tip of the iceberg,” Frattini said at the start of a two-day conference on the beleaguered Horn of Africa country.

“The deep causes of piracy are rooted in the political, social and economic crises on the ground, not on the sea,” Frattini said at the talks of the International Contact Group on Somalia (ICGS).

Pirate attacks have multiplied in the Gulf of Aden, where independent groups have counted 114 attempted hijackings so far this year compared with 111 in all of 2008.

“Piracy is a crime that has reached an intolerable magnitude,” Frattini said.

“Piracy, terrorism, illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings… constitute a threat to individual security and at the end of the day to European security as well,” he added.

Frattini said efforts should focus on “facing the humanitarian crisis, rebuilding the Somali economy, providing jobs for young people and giving everybody the perspective that things can change, and indeed I think things are changing” in the former Italian colony.

“Italy stands with Somalia not only for historical reasons but also because it is unacceptable to abandon millions of people to a fate of war and violence,” he said.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke filled in at the talks for President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who opted to stay in Mogadishu where a month-old insurgent offensive aimed at toppling the government was yet to be decisively repelled.

A latest bout of fighting left more than 250 people, civilians and combatants, dead and around 100,000 displaced, according to witnesses, medical sources and aid groups.

Nevertheless, Frattini said “there are grounds for cautious optimism, notwithstanding the recent outbursts of violence which some observers believe are the reaction by those who oppose the peace process.”

The Rome talks bringing together delegates from nearly 40 countries and international organisations are the 15th of the ICGS, formed in 2005.

“Billions of US dollars have been spent over the last 10 years and still we have a crisis,” lamented ICGS chairman Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. “This is not a good investment…. The gravy train is not going to run anymore.”

An increasing international maritime presence in the waters off Somalia to combat piracy is “a sign of solidarity, making piracy more difficult and more costly,” he said, adding that “helping Somalia to fight piracy also helps (neighbouring) Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and southern Sudan,” he said.

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