, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 17 – The war on piracy moved a notch higher on Tuesday with the UN Security Council’s adoption of a resolution authorising international land operations against armed Somali pirates.
It is the first time such a landmark resolution is passed and will see foreign warships and fighter jets extend their operations to inland Somalia instead of just restricting themselves to the volatile Somali waters.
The resolution gives those nations already involved in battling pirates off Somalia a one-year mandate to act against the brigands inside the country.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed the adoption of the US resolution saying it sent a "strong signal to combat the scourge of piracy" and stressed the need "to end the impunity of Somali pirates."
Already, Kenya has agreed to deploy fighter jets alongside its warships as it seeks to protect its territorial waters from increasingly brazen Somali pirates.
Kenya’s Chief of General Staff Jeremiah Kianga said on Monday that forces will be actively involved in the war against piracy that was solely left to the foreign forces.
"Kenya will come out boldly to tackle piracy and stringent measures have been put in place to counter any acts of piracy in Kenyan waters," General Kianga told journalists in Mombasa in an apparent reference to the hijacked ships that have remained in the controls of Somali pirates including the MV Faina which was carrying controversial military cargo.
Tuesday’s resolution was co-sponsored by Belgium, France, Greece, Liberia and South Korea.
Resolution 1851 authorizes the states to "take all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia" to suppress "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."
However, to overcome objections from countries such as Indonesia an earlier reference in the text to "ashore" or "including in its (Somalia) airspace" was dropped.
Tuesday’s resolution was the fourth approved by the council since June to combat the rampant piracy off Somalia’s coast. And unlike previous resolutions, the current text empowers states combating piracy to conduct operations on land in Somalia.
But the Pentagon warned there were "practical challenges" to taking such action inside Somalia.
"We welcome the passing of the resolution. We will continue to work with our allies and partners to address this troublesome problem," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
He pointed out that US Defense Secretary Robert Gates had raised "some of the practical challenges associated with combating this illegal activity."
Rice also told the UN session attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Chinese deputy foreign minister He Yafei and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, that it was time "to authorize a UN peacekeeping operation" in Somalia.
Somali pirates have enjoyed a bumper 2008, attacking more than 100 ships and raking in an estimated 120 million dollars (90 million euros) in ransom money with the Kenyan waters proving a popular hunting ground for the pirates.
"We are expecting about 16 cruise ships at the port of Mombasa between December and March and we want to ensure the safety of the incoming ships is given top priority," said Gen Kianga.
"We have ships at sea, aircraft surveillance and fighters ready to respond with any kind of distress in the Indian Ocean. We have put pirates on notice and we shall sink them if they try to cross onto Kenyan waters.”
Indonesia’s UN Ambassador Marty Natalegawa meanwhile made clear that "the fight against piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia needs to be undertaken in full compliance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."