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Somali envoy says release of Ukrainian ship requires cooperation

12.12.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

The Somali ambassador to Moscow said on Wednesday that Ukraine and all sides involved in negotiations to free ships seized off the east African coast need to cooperate with the Somali authorities.

Somali pirates have attacked at least 90 ships so far this year, resulting in the seizure of around 39 vessels, currently up to 280 crew members, including 17 Ukrainians and three Russians onboard a Ukrainian vessel, are still being held captive.

Mohamed Handule said during a press conference when asked about progress in negotiations over the release of Ukraine's MV Faina, which was seized in September, "The ship owners are not cooperating with the Somali government, we are getting no official information from the country. The pirates are also not cooperating with us, so I cannot say how the talks are going."

Handule said that Somalia could give the go ahead for Ukraine to use force to free the Faina, "We are ready to agree, but we must coordinate the process together. The operation needs to be mutually beneficial."

In April a luxury French yacht was released after almost a week in the hands of Somali pirates, who were captured by French forces. The suspected pirates are now awaiting trial in France.

In response to the rise in pirate attacks, the EU launched on Monday a joint task force, codenamed operation Atalanta, which involves eight countries, aimed at tackling piracy in the waters near the Gulf of Aden.

Russia dispatched a naval vessel, the Neustrashimy (Fearless), to escort commercial vessels in the region in October following the surge in seizures.

The Neustrashimy will conclude its escort duties at the end of the year when it when it will be replaced by the Pacific Fleet's destroyer, the Admiral Vinogradov, which left a naval base near Vladivostok on Tuesday on course for the Indian Ocean.

The east African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991 and has no navy to police its coastline.

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