Malta calls for end to violence in Syria, proud of helping Libya

English: Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta.

Malta PM Gonzi. Image via Wikipedia

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday joined burgeoning calls to end the terror gripping Syria, saying evidence of human rights violations was “overwhelming” and calling for the redoubling of UN-centred efforts to end the violence.

Syria is in the grips of ongoing civil strife, with mass protests calling for an end to the Bashar al-Assad regime being violently struck down by the Syrian army. The UN estimates that more than 5,000 people have been killed so far.

Dr Gonzi was speaking at the annual exchange of New Year greetings with the diplomatic corps.

His calls for a more effective international response to spiralling violence in Syria came as part of a broader speech emphasising the continued relevance of UN-driven multilateralism within internation-al relations.

“In spite of its weaknesses and disappointments, the multilateral system centred round the United Nations remains a beacon of hope and a focus of action,” the Prime Minister said.

Dr Gonzi gave a brief overview of Malta’s international role throughout the past year. Describing 2011 as “a watershed period in international relations,” he spoke at length about the Arab Spring and Malta’s role throughout the Libyan overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

“From the very outset we saw our humanitarian involvement as a direct expression of the political support we wished to extend to the Libyan people in their struggle for freedom, dignity and human rights,” Dr Gonzi told gathered dignitaries.

As the much-touted “nurse of the Mediterranean”, Malta played a key role in evacuating the wounded and providing urgent humanitarian assistance to victims of the Libyan war. Foreign Minister Tonio Borg earlier described the operation as “the biggest evacuation exercise in Maltese history”.

Papal Nuncio and dean of the diplomatic corps, Mgr Tommaso Caputo went one further in his brief address, saying that in 2011 Malta had shown itself to be the “Good Samaritan of the Mediterranean”, driven by a belief in solidarity and “cherishing the dignity of man and the values that uphold that dignity”.

Dr Gonzi highlighted Malta’s decision to withhold the return of two Libyan fighter jets, noting that this was done even before UN sanctions were in place. “Such decisions require moral courage,” he told consuls later yesterday evening.

The overthrowing of dictatorial regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya has sprung renewed hope of a democratic shift within the Arab World.

Such hope is reflected across Europe, with Dr Gonzi saying there was “recognition” that the EU now had “a genuinely equal and viable partner” in its Arab World regional neighbour. It is a regional neighbour which, in the guise of the Arab League, grew substantially in personality over 2011, first suspending the membership of Gaddafi-led Libya – something Dr Gonzi alluded to and praised – and then openly condemning the crackdown on protesters by Syrian troops.

But increased activity in 2011 within the Arab world was countered by inertia among Mediterranean regional institutions with Dr Gonzi saying Malta was “disappointed” by the failure to hold the scheduled 5+5 Mediterranean dialogue summit last year. The Prime Minister redoubled criticism later in an address to consuls, saying that when it came to the crunch none of the myriad regional institutions “gave any extraordinary contribution” to the Libyan crisis.

Dr Gonzi found time to reiterate Malta’s support for further EU enlargement, saying that the island looked forward to welcoming Croatia as the EU’s 28th member in 2013


$4million ransom paid to #Somalia pirates | List of seized vessels

English: somali pirates at large

Image via Wikipedia

Somali pirates have freed the 18-man crew of a Maltese-flagged chemical tanker after the payment of a $4 million ransom, the maritime editor of the Somalia Report said on Monday.

Andrew Mwangura, an authoritative source on piracy, said the crew – three Turks and 15 Georgians – sailed to the Kenyan port of Mombasa in a tugboat after their release last week, while the tanker, the MV Olib G, was abandoned off the Somali coast.

The Greek-owned and -operated chemical tanker was seized in the Gulf of Aden while on its last trip before the scrapyard, according to Mwangura, a former regional maritime official.

The seas off Somalia have been plagued by piracy in recent years as Somali gangs have exploited 20 years of lawlessness in their Horn of Africa country by seizing vessels and demanding huge ransoms for them and their crews.

Kenya’s military says piracy has become less frequent since it sent forces into neighbouring Somalia last October to fight al Shabaab rebels and stationed its navy off its southern coast.

The empty tanker with its 21 crew was seized south of Salalah port in the Gulf of Oman. The 52,455 dwt Marshall Islands-flagged tanker is managed by Mumbai-based Anglo-Eastern Ship Management.
The Olip G merchant vessel was also released this month. It was seized in September 2010 with a crew of 18.

Here are details of ships held by Somali pirates:

  • SOCOTRA 1: Seized on Dec. 25, 2009, in the Gulf of Aden.

The Yemeni-owned ship had six Yemeni crew.

  • ICEBERG 1: Seized on March 29, 2010. Roll-on roll-off

vessel captured 10 miles from Aden. Crew of 24.

  • CHOIZIL: Seized on Oct. 26, 2010. South African-owned

yacht hijacked after leaving Dar es Salaam. One crew member was
rescued by an EU anti-piracy task force but two others were
taken ashore as hostages and have not been heard from since.

  • ALBEDO: Seized on Nov. 26, 2010. Malaysian-owned cargo

vessel taken 900 miles off Somalia as it headed for Mombasa from
UAE. Crew of 23 from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran.

  • ORNA: Seized on Dec. 20, 2010. The Panama-flagged bulk

cargo vessel, 27,915 dwt, owned by the United Arab Emirates, was
seized 400 miles northeast of the Seychelles. Somali pirates
rescued 19 crew members of the Orna after their hijacked ship
caught fire last June.

  • LIQUID VELVET: Seized on Oct. 31, 2011. The Marshall

Islands-flagged Greek-owned chemical tanker was sailing from
Suez and heading to India when it was seized in the Gulf of
Aden. The 11,599 dwt, owned by the Greek firm Elmira Tankers,
was carrying 22 people on board.

  • ARIDE: Seized November 2011. The fishing vessel was captured 65 miles west of Mahe. The two Seychelles crew are

being held hostage by Somali pirates.

  • ENRList of seized vesselsICO IEVOLI: Seized on Dec. 27, 2011 .

Ship-owner Marnavi said that the 16,631-tonne chemical tanker had been seized by pirates off the coast of Oman in the Arabian sea. The tanker had 18 people on board including six Italians, five Ukranians and seven Indians. The vessel is carrying a cargo of caustic soda and had left the United Arab Emirates bound for the Mediterranean.

Laaska News


Reuters/Ecoterra International/International

Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre/Lloyds

List/ here