Let me first thank the Croatian Presidency for convening this debate.
We meet here in New York knowing that the situation in Somalia is deteriorating. This morning we met in the Contact Group for Somalia, addressing the political processes that may lead towards stability and legal authority or – if they fail – plunge Somalia even deeper into lawlessness.
Piracy is the key issue here. We have a dramatic symptom – and we have a set of root causes. We need to address both.
Piracy off the coast of Somalia is escalating. It is a threat to international trade, to freedom of navigation, and to our prosperity. It is also a grave threat to the countries and peoples in the region who will suffer from failing supplies.
And let us not forget, Mr President, that this scourge is a telling sign of the general lawless misery that continues to haunt the people of Somalia.
Norway is deeply concerned. We condemn all acts of piracy. We need to act against piracy and against the roots of piracy.
We greatly appreciate the efforts of all the countries and regional organisations that are actively combating this crime off the coast of Somalia.
We commend the TFG for its attitude of cooperation with the international community. And we pay tribute to the Security Council for its leadership and for passing resolutions 1816, 1838 and 1846.
Norway is a major shipping nation with considerable experience of maritime affairs. One thousand Norwegian-owned ships pass through the Bay of Aden every year.
We will be open to requests for technical assistance to strengthen national capacity in the region to combat piracy, and we are prepared to make a contribution to the naval operations in the area in 2009.
We must cooperate in order to apprehend the pirates and bring them to justice, and we must do so within the framework of international law, including applicable human rights standards. Furthermore, the more ships that are made available to the naval operation, the greater the need for proper organisation and coordination. A clear UN role should therefore be explored.
The existence of piracy off the coast of Somalia has its roots in the situation on Somali territory. A long-term sustainable solution to the problem of piracy will be difficult to achieve without improving stability on land.
However, this seems to be far from imminent, which is why we are authorising special measures today against those who undertake acts of piracy, which is threatening lives and lifelines, security and commercial interests.
We require that the measures we authorise are in accordance with international law and humanitarian principles. It is a principled decision, but not an easy one.
But a contrary decision now would lead the way for states with dysfunctional security sectors to be used as safe havens for pirates. And that we cannot accept.
The efforts to stabilise Somalia must continue with full force. Millions of people are in need of humanitarian aid and more than a million are internally displaced. Norway commends the regional efforts of IGAD to sustain the political reconciliation process in Somalia. We take note of the decision of the Government of Ethiopia to withdraw its troops from Somali soil in order to reduce friction and promote reconciliation within Somalia.
However, this decision also entails a major challenge both to the AU and to the rest of the international community. We need to help the Somalis to prevent a new security vacuum arising in the period until Somali institutions are able to provide the necessary security and stability to the Somali people. We therefore urge the UN Security Council to address this challenge with speed and determination, so as not to cause any undue delay in the Djibouti peace process.
Norway will continue to be an active partner in the international efforts to bring about peace and stability to Somalia, and to assist people in need. The Somali leaders and the Somali people should be aware that the international community is ready to assist, but they should also realise that it is only the Somalis themselves who can make the necessary decisions to steer the country in the right direction.
(*) This statement was delivered by Ambassador Morten Wetland on behalf of Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.