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U.S. Daily Press Briefing

Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman

Washington, DC

November 19, 2008



Won't Offer Advice to Saudis / Piracy Remains an International Concern Pushing For UN Security Council Resolution on Limitations of High Seas Vessels Indian Navy Engagement with Pirates


10:04 a.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody.

QUESTION: This tanker off the coast of Somalia.


QUESTION: Back there again, yeah.


QUESTION: Apparently, the Saudi Foreign Minister says that they’re in – the company is in negotiations with the pirates. And I just wondered whether you had any comment on these ransom negotiations, whether this was something you --

MR. MCCORMACK: As I did yesterday, I’m going to decline to offer any advice to the Saudis on this matter. The issue of piracy is, as I stated yesterday many times over, a concern to us as well as others in the international system. The issue of piracy has been with us, as an international system, unfortunately, for quite some time. We – the American Navy came about in large part because of piracy in the Mediterranean more than 200 years ago. So we’ve been dealing with this problem a long time.

We in the State Department are trying to come at it from the diplomatic and political angle. We’re working in the Security Council to try to pass a resolution that could perhaps help deal with some of the limitations that currently exist in dealing with vessels on the high seas. You can talk to the Department of Defense about the deployment of their assets and what the activities of those assets might be.

I would note that the Indian Navy engaged with some pirates in the – off the Horn of Africa. You can talk to them about the particulars of the incident. But as I understand it, the Indian Navy vessel was fired upon; they fired back, sank one of the vessels, and captured some of these pirates as well.

So there is action that is taking place. But you are also talking about a very, very large area – surface area in the Indian Ocean area just off the Red Sea, off the coast of Somalia.

QUESTION: You say you’re coming at it from the diplomatic and political angle, but what are you doing and how far have you gotten?

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re working in the Security Council, like we’ve been talking about --

QUESTION: But you said that --

MR. MCCORMACK: -- over the past days.

QUESTION: You said that yesterday the Secretary had asked the Department to take a look at what else you could do outside of the Security Council.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, and I know they’re meeting today.

QUESTION: Who’s meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Eliot Cohen brought together a group of people.

QUESTION: Who’s – I mean, what is the strategy here? Because it appears, looking from the outside, that not a great deal is being done and that maybe the Security Council is where it’s at.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no, it’s -- look, it’s an international problem. You’re not going to solve this – the United States is not going to solve this alone. No one country is going to solve it alone. You can see, in very practical terms, the fact that this is an international problem with the fact – you know, by the fact that you have Indian naval vessels, you have Russian naval vessels, you have NATO vessels in the area. You have U.S. vessels that are in the area that are involved in counterterrorism operations. And again, they have certain obligations under certain circumstances involving piracy. So things are being done.

But there are also – there’s international law, there’s common international practice that needs to be dealt with here. The folks up at the Security Council are trying to address some of the issues that are perhaps obstacles to preventing piracy. I’m not an expert in maritime law, so I can’t list all of those obstacles for you. But the people who are expert in these matters are trying to deal with them. We are taking a look internally here at the State Department to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to work with others to address what is an international problem.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay? Great.

(The briefing was concluded at 10:23 a.m.)


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