France vows help with pirates

2009-10-18 17:31

Victoria - France's defence minister on Sunday pledged his country's support to the development of the Seychelles' judiciary, ill-adapted to dealing with suspected Somali pirates captured in its waters.

"I underlined how important it is to France for pirates to be punished and for the Seychelles to set up an adequate legal system," Herve Morin told the media in Victoria, the capital of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

On the last day of a tour of the Indian Ocean, Morin held talks with Joel Morgan, the Seychelles' minister for environment, natural resources and transport.

He vowed to boost the Seychelles courts' capacity a few days after the French navy said it was obliged to release 11 suspected pirates for lack of evidence following a failed attack on two French tuna-fishing vessels.

Morin also said that the EU was planning to spend $1.18m on developing the small archipelago's judiciary.

Morgan welcomed the minister's support, pointing out that "between February and June, maritime traffic dropped by 30% in the region, affecting mainly the tuna-fishing fleet."

France, together with Spain, has several large tuna-fishing vessels stationed in the Seychelles, a key source of revenue for island state.

The deployment last year of dozens of foreign warships to counter rampant piracy in the Gulf of Aden has led Somali pirate groups to redeploy in the Indian Ocean.

Since the monsoon winds dropped a week ago, piracy incidents have been on the rise after a relative lull and most of the incidents took place either inside or just outside the Seychelles exclusive economic zone.