Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Saturday he was concerned by the seizure of a Ukrainian ship off Somalia carrying military supplies and feared they would be used to further destabilize the region.
Speaking before a meeting in New York with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Meles said piracy off the coast of Somalia was a « very hard problem » and he hoped the international community would respond.
« We are very concerned about the level of piracy on the seas. It is related to the instability in Somalia, » he told reporters.
Somali pirates have demanded a $35-million ransom for the Ukrainian ship they had seized which was carrying 33 tanks, grenade launchers, ammunition and other military supplies destined for Kenya.
« They could be used to destabilize the region and the whole situation on the high seas is a matter of great concern for all of us, » Meles said.
« We very much hope the international community will respond. »
Pirates have captured more than 30 vessels off Somalia this year, making its waters the most dangerous in the world and threatening a major international shipping lane between Europe and Asia. The gangs seek, and often receive, large ransoms.
An Islamist insurgence in the south of Somalia, which has not had a functioning government for 17 years, has made it difficult for the struggling interim government to police the waters. Russia said on Friday it was sending a warship to the region to protect Russian ships and citizens.