PRESIDENT HOLDS HIGH LEVEL MEETINGS IN MARGINS OF LONDON CONFERENCE
President James Michel has met with the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, at a meeting in the margins of the London Conference on Somalia.
Mr. Ban Ki-moon expressed deep appreciation for the efforts Seychelles is making in the fight against piracy and recognized the significant contribution of Seychelles despite its size and limited resources.
President Michel thanked the United Nations for the support of its agencies, such as the UNODC, in building capacity for the fight against piracy in Seychelles and the region.
The President and the Secretary General discussed the opportunities for Somalia to develop its economy and for its youth to be empowered in various economic activity in order to deter them from becoming involved in piracy activity.
President Michel reiterated the necessity for law and order to be restored in Somalia in order to develop the country and for peace and stability to be established, and expressed hope that the recent UN resolution to increase AMISOM peacekeeping troops to a 17,500 strong force, would aid this process. President Michel had written to the UN Secretary General and world leaders in December 2011 to ask for, among other strategic actions, the reinforcement of the peace-keeping troops in Somalia, and expressed satisfaction that concrete actions were taking place.
We are deeply grateful for the role the United Nations is playing in the fight against piracy and we urge the organization to consider the need for continued support to Seychelles in order to build our capacity to bring pirates to justice. We have many constraints related to our size, and because we want to do more in this important anti-piracy mission, the continued support of the UN is invaluable,¡± said President Michel.
President James Michel also met with the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during a bilateral meeting in the margins of the conference.
Mrs. Clinton thanked President Michel for the appeal he had made to President Obama in December 2011, concerning the need to address the Somali crisis and the threat of piracy, and said that the United States would be committed to addressing this.
The US Secretary of State She thanked Seychelles for support given to the US Armed Forces in Seychelles, in the counter piracy surveillance programme and also commended the Seychelles for its excellent efforts in the fight against piracy.
President Michel expressed the readiness of Seychelles to continue providing the support as the anti© piracy hub of the region, and outlined the necessary assistance that is needed to build the Seychelles capacity to prosecute pirates.
We have excellent relations between United States and Seychelles, and this meeting has further reinforced our willingness to further develop these relations in various areas of cooperation,¡± said the President.
Earlier in the week, President James Michel held talks with the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma. Discussions centered on cooperation between the Commonwealth and Seychelles, plans for future projects as well as a review of recent work accomplished.
President Michel briefed the Secretary General on the process for electoral reforms that are taking place in Seychelles, following the recommendations made by the Commonwealth observer groups last year.
Secretary General Sharma noted that many reforms had already taken place and that the Commonwealth is following closely the progress made.
Mr. Sharma also said that the Commonwealth would be sending a technical team to review the Seychelles health system, as had been requested by the Seychelles Government.
They also discussed projects for the development of the petroleum sector, youth programmes, legislative drafting as well as the support needed for the Seychelles¡¯ fight against piracy and the establishment of the rule of law in Somalia.
We are deeply appreciative of the role the Commowealth is playing in the development of our democratic system, as well as the improvement of our mechanisms for good governance and accountability. We continue to seek assistance for capacity building as the expertise from the Commonwealth is crucial to our progress and sustainable development,¡± said the President.
Seychelles was singled out this week for praise in the United Nations Security Council for its lead role in prosecuting pirates in the Indian Ocean.The praise, delivered on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and echoed by members of the Security Council, came on the eve of the London summit on Somalia.
Speaking for Mr Ban Ki-moon who was on his way to the London conference, his Legal Counsel and Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Patricia O'Brien described Seychelles' willingness to act as a regional prosecution centre as an important development in battle against piracy in the Indian ocean.
"I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Seychelles for this initiative," Ms O'Brien said while recognising that this was "understandably contingent upon there being an effective post-trial transfer framework in place so that those convicted can serve their sentences in Somalia".
Ms O'Brien's statement was later echoed by the representative of the United States which was one of several countries that commended Seychelles.
The Security Council was debating a report by the Secretary-General on specialised anti-piracy courts in Somalia and other states in the region.
Pointing out that Seychelles will this year also open a Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution and Intelligence Coordination Centre, Ms O'Brien described this as "a most important development that accords with the emphasis of the Security Council...on the need to prosecute not only suspects captured at sea, but also key figures of the criminal networks who organise and profit from piracy attacks".
Mr Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) later reported that pirates received some US0 million in ransoms for hijacked vessels and crews last year, a 54% increase on 2010. The average ransom in 2011 was about US million, although as much as million was paid for the release of a tanker.
Noting that Seychelles and four other states of the region were prosecuting piracy suspects or seriously considering doing so, Under-Secretary-General O'Brien said: "I am most grateful to these states for their...dedication in combating piracy."
She added that the Secretary-General's report reflected "that the states in the region that are conducting piracy prosecutions have taken on a heavy responsibility that entails a commitment of national resources, as well as security risks.
"It is key that the international community both acknowledges the important prosecution role that they are playing, and matches their commitment with strong international support and assistance."
The UN Secretary-General's report indicates that of the 20 countries holding and prosecuting Somali piracy suspects, Seychelles is third in convicting the most pirates after Somalia itself and Yemen.
The US Air Force has operated surveillance assets, including P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles, in Seychelles since 2009.
US Navy warships have also patrolled within the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone and have called on Port Victoria for rest and re-supply.