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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09STATE4610
2009-01-16 16:01:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Secretary of State
Cable title:  

PIRACY: FIRST MEETING OF CONTACT GROUP CHARTS

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  EWWT  KCRM  PBTS  PHSA 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 STATE 004610 

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EWWT KCRM PBTS PHSA
SUBJECT: PIRACY: FIRST MEETING OF CONTACT GROUP CHARTS
COURSE FOR COMBATING PIRACY

REF: STATE 1223



1. (SBU) Summary: Pursuant to UNSCR 1851, the Contact Group
on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) held its inaugural
meeting on January 14 in New York. Twenty-four countries and
five international organizations met to discuss - and came to
agreement on the way ahead - on six focus areas dealing with
the issue of piracy. These focus areas, which flow from the
USG Counter-Piracy Action Plan (CPAP) include improving
operational and intelligence support, establishing a
counter-piracy coordination mechanism, strengthening judicial
frameworks for arrest, prosecution, and detention of pirates,
strengthening commercial shipping self-defense and other
capabilities, pursuing improved diplomatic and public
information efforts, and disrupting pirate financial
operations. To address these issues, the Contact Group
agreed on a number of key points - standards for admission
into the Contact Group, a name change to reflect a focus on
counter-piracy off the coast of Somalia (rather than a focus
on Somali pirates), the formation of working groups and work
plans to operationalize the efforts of the Contact Group
(and, by extension, both UNSCR 1851 and the USG CPAP), the
selection of national leads for the working groups, the need
to draw on existing international organizations, such as the
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Egmont Group, to
determine sources and uses of pirate finances, a commitment
to a second meeting of the Contact Group in March 2009, and a
robust communiqu (sent separately). End Summary



--------------------------



--------------------------


U.S. Provides Situation Update on Piracy; Sets Out Objectives
for First Contact Group Meeting


--------------------------



--------------------------





2. (SBU) Assistant Secretary Kimmitt opened the inaugural
meeting of the Contact Group with a situational update on
piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia. He reported that
incidents of piracy off the Horn of Africa grew significantly
in 2008, with the likelihood of such attacks increasing in


2009. Kimmitt cited the number of reported attacks in 2008
was 122, with 15 pirate attacks having taken place in 2009
(as of January 12). He noted that ransom payments totaling
over $30 million have been paid to pirates in 2008 and these
large amounts have encouraged additional pirate attacks. He
highlighted the negative effects of piracy on freedom of
navigation, the increase in shipping insurance premiums along
one of the world's most traveled routes, and the prospect of
environmental disaster as ships fall prey to hostile intent.
That said, Kimmitt noted that international efforts have

started to make a difference, noting that only four of the
thirty-two piracy attempts were successful from November 28 -
January 12. The Combined Maritime Force, NATO, the EU and
countries on national tasking have undertaken counter-piracy

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operations during the last six months. Kimmitt highlighted
the fact that over 65 ships from the navies of 15 countries
have been involved in countering piracy off the coast of
Somalia and coordination and information sharing have
improved.



3. (SBU) In opening statements by the Contact Group members,
there was unanimity in the view that international collective
action was necessary to stem the threat of piracy and the
Contact Group was an ideal vehicle to coordinate these
efforts. Somalia's Permanent Representative Elmi Ahmed
Dualeh conveyed thanks to the Contact Group and states that
provide protection to humanitarian aid shipping, noting that
unity of action will help discourage piracy. With its basis
grounded in UNSCR 1851, countries like China and Russia were
vocal in their support of the formation of the Contact Group
and its objectives of better coordination in areas like
information sharing and protection of commercial shipping
lanes. On several occasions China noted that there should be
a strong link between the Contact Group and the UNSC and that
China supports international cooperation pursuant to UNSC
resolution. As many members pointed out, piracy has an
international impact. Greece noted its shipping interests -
which represent seventeen percent of the world total - are
looking for a solution to the scourge of piracy; India -
which has ten percent of the world's seafarers - pointed to
the importance of the Contact Group's efforts to focus on
this issue.



4. (SBU) Contact Group members wrestled with the question of
how to address the issue of Somalia's political situation as
it related to piracy. All agreed that piracy was a symptom
of Somalia's weak central authority. A number of countries
attempted to pull piracy into the larger debate on Somalia,
but A/S Kimmitt reminded the group that the mandate from
UNSCR 1851 limited the focus to piracy alone, and that the
larger issue of Somalia would be handled by organizations
such as the U.N. International Contact Group on Somalia.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Focus Areas One and Two: Improving Operational and
Intelligence support to Counter-Piracy efforts and
Establishing a Counter-Piracy Coordination Mechanism


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. (SBU) In the first two sessions, the Contact Group noted
the importance of coordinating both intelligence and
information among the military, civilian and industry
stakeholders. It also viewed these focus areas as two of the
most important efforts the Contact Group would undertake.
Acting on the suggestion of German and French
representatives, the Contact Group agreed to merge focus
areas one and two into one working group. UK Foreign and
Commonwealth Office's Director of International Security Paul
Johnston volunteered the United Kingdom to co-chair this
working group with the International Maritime Organization.
In line with the UNSCR mandate establishing an international
coordination mechanism, Johnston also lent UK support to

STATE 00004610 003 OF 005


stand up a regional counter-piracy center. There was
disagreement on the advisability of industry involvement
within the coordinating mechanism, with the U.S./UK
supporting such involvement and the French delegation
strongly opposed. Johnston pledged to prepare and circulate
a paper for comments that would deal with counter-piracy
information sharing and coordination mechanisms and would
offer several suggestions on the way forward on these issues.
He offered to host a working group meeting in London before
the next Contact Group meeting.



6. (SBU) On improving coordination of intelligence and
information, several members voiced concerns on the terms of
reference and rules of engagement (ROE) associated with
counter-piracy operations. Yemen's UN Permanent
Representative - referencing the death of a Yemeni fisherman
during a Russian-conducted counter-piracy operation -
emphasized the need to understand the ROE and avoid such
tragic mistakes in the future. Russia's Deputy Permanent
Representative Iliya Rogachev challenged this version of what
happened, stating that a Russian frigate responded to a Dutch
ship's distress call that it was under attack from pirates.
In recounting the events, Rogachev questioned why a fisherman
would be in a high-speed boat chasing a Dutch ship. Rogachev
promised a thorough investigation, which the Yemeni
representative looked forward to reviewing.



--------------------------

--
Focus Area 3: Strengthening Judicial Frameworks


--------------------------

--



7. (SBU) In the third session, the United States began the
discussion of legal issues by noting that a key aspect of
fighting piracy is the effective apprehension, prosecution
and detention of suspects, that we should not be in a
position where suspects are apprehended and let go for want
of a venue for prosecution or that piracy suspects are
apprehended only to remain on coalition vessels for extended
periods of time for want of a venue to effectively prosecute
them, that we should all have laws criminalizing piracy, that
the burden of prosecution should not fall on one or two
countries, and that a working group should be set up to focus
on five issues:

-- the extent to which Contact Group countries have
established criminal jurisdiction that covers piracy on the
high seas and armed robbery in Somali territorial waters;
-- the circumstances under which such countries are in a
position to prosecute suspected pirates, from policy,
practical, and capacity points of view;
-- for Contact Group countries engaged in counter-piracy
operations in the region, the extent to which they have or
are considering concluding arrangements with States in the
region concerning delivery and prosecution of suspects;
-- for Contact Group countries in the region in a position to
prosecute suspected pirates, their requirements to strengthen
capacity to prosecute and incarcerate, as well as legal
requirements that other countries capturing suspects should

STATE 00004610 004 OF 005


be aware of (such as evidentiary requirements); and
-- the extent to which Contact Group members can make
available financial and other practical support to assist
other countries with prosecutions.



8. (SBU) There was widespread agreement on judicial issues.
Specifically, there was broad agreement that a working group
on these issues was necessary, that it should have a broad
mandate (including the issues identified by the United
States), that work on these issues was urgent both because of
the specialized nature of legal issues surrounding piracy and
because countries have a wide variety of legal circumstances
(both in terms of domestic law and their respective
international obligations), that the working group should
focus its attention on practical arrangements, and that
Denmark should lead the group with assistance from other
countries and UNODC. A notable area of disagreement was
whether an international tribunal/court should be established
in the longer-term to deal with piracy prosecutions, with
Germany favoring such a mechanism and others (including
France, the UK, and China) strongly opposing this mechanism.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Focus Area Four: Strengthening Commercial Shipping
Self-Defense Capabilities


--------------------------



--------------------------





9. (SBU) U.S. Maritime Administrator (MARAD) Sean Connaughton
noted the important role the shipping industry plays,
emphasizing civilian and military authorities can not tackle
this issue alone. He highlighted industry's
capacity-building efforts in self-protection, and mentioned
the shipping industry's recent efforts to compile a best
practices guide to help minimize pirate attacks. He also
cited the EU's website, which contains useful suggestions for
industry. Connaughton thought the formation of a Commercial
Industry Working Group communicating directly with industry
would send a strong signal that the international community
is serious about cooperating with industry to thwart piracy.
International Maritime Organization (IMO) noted its efforts
to work with commercial shipping over the past three decades
and offered to support the working group efforts, stating its
experience and work would complement this focus area. The
U.S. agreed to co-lead the working group with the
International Maritime Administration to build on the
existing efforts of industry.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Focus Area Five: Diplomatic and Public Information efforts


--------------------------



--------------------------





10. (SBU) Noting the importance of creating a strong, unified
international image and hitting the target audiences, Egypt's
Wafaa Bassem, Assistant Foreign Minister for Cabinet Affairs,
offered Egypt as leader of this working group. She said it
was important to show the link between piracy and the weak
central government of Somalia, as well as craft the public
message to be preventative in nature which could help

STATE 00004610 005 OF 005


discourage people in the region from turning to piracy.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Focus Area Six: Disrupting Pirate Financial Operations


--------------------------



--------------------------





11. (SBU) After debating the focus of the piracy finance
question, the Contact Group reached agreement that it would
call on existing international financial mechanisms, such as
the FATF and the Egmont Group, to trace financial flows that
fund piracy efforts and request these groups report back to
the Contact Group. Concerns centered on the difficulty and
sensitivity of tracing pirate-destined funds or ransoms paid,
as it touched on the sensitive nature of financial
transactions. Bassem said it was important to gather expert
opinions on legal controls and that these efforts do not
encroach on other on-going efforts to trace financial
transactions, i.e. terrorist financing.



--------------------------


Press Conference


--------------------------





12. (SBU) Following the meeting, representatives of the
Contact Group held a press conference highlighting the
international cooperation on finding common solutions to
piracy. A/S Kimmitt pointed to this meeting and the group
assembled as a clear show of the international community's
resolve to work together to combat the increasing threat that
piracy off the coast of Somalia presents to the safety of
mariners, to commerce, to the delivery of critical
humanitarian assistance to the Somali people, and to
international security. There were no contentious questions
asked.



--------------------------


Next Steps and New Members


--------------------------





13. (SBU) The Contact Group agreed to hold its next meeting
in March, with the location still to be determined. Well
ahead of this next meeting, working groups will meet to
address the issues -- and questions -- which arose at the
Contact Group meeting. Working groups will likely convene in
the lead country's capital. The Contact Group also reached
consensus on a new membership policy, offering participation
to any nation or international organization making tangible
contributions to counter-piracy efforts or any country
significantly affected by piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Under these criteria the Contact Group admitted four new
member countries and one organization - Belgium, Norway,
Portugal, Sweden, and the Arab League.
RICE