The Standing NATO Maritime Group will begin anti-piracy operations off the Somali coast in two weeks. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a press conference on 9 October, the first day of an informal meeting of allied defense ministers in Budapest, that NATO ships would escort vessels transporting World Food Program (WFP) aid to Somalia, on the request of the United Nations. He said the NATO warships would also conduct patrols off the Somali coast to deter pirates.
Earlier, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said up to seven ships would be involved in the NATO operation. The Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Québec is currently escorting WFP ships off the Somali coast but Appathurai (who incidentally is Canadian) said its deployment would end on 20 October. He also pointed out that there is a coalition anti-piracy task force and Russian warship in the area.
De Hoop Scheffer insisted that the NATO anti-piracy operations would be conducted in "full complimentarity" with other parties, including the European Union, which is planning a similar operation of its own. Earlier, Appathurai said, "There is no competition and plenty of work to go around."
De Hoop Scheffer described the NATO operation as "good news for the people of Somalia and bad news for the pirates."
Photo: Canadian National Defense