Seychelles and EU in Navy deal

2009-11-10 21:15

Victoria - The Seychelles and the European Union on Tuesday signed an agreement formally authorising EU naval forces to hunt and detain suspected Somali pirates.

The deal is also designed to help the tiny Indian Ocean nation develop its own anti-piracy capacities, the foreign affairs ministry said.

"This agreement will provide the legal basis to the deployment of the European Union-led Forces (EUNAVFOR) units and personnel in the territory of the Republic of Seychelles," a statement said.

The Seychelles had already signed similar agreements with France and the United States.

"Seychelles is fully committed to fighting the scourge of piracy. This agreement is a future tool in strengthening our capacity for this fight," Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Transport Joel Morgan said.

Vital role

At the signing, British High Commissioner Matthew Forbes pointed out that the Seychelles "has a vital role to play" in the fight against piracy.

The world's naval powers last year started deploying warships in the Gulf of Aden in an attempt to curb attacks by ransom-hunting pirates that were seen as a threat to one of the globe's most crucial maritime trade routes.

Pirate groups have since shifted their focus to the wider Indian Ocean, a huge area much more difficult to patrol, and started venturing as far as the Seychelles and beyond.

Most of the attacks against foreign vessels by Somali pirates in the past month were carried out in or around the Seychelles exclusive economic zone.

The small nation, which is highly reliant on tourism and the tuna-fishing industry, has expressed fears that unchecked expansion of Somali piracy in its waters could deal a fatal blow to its economy.