June 12, 2009 / 3:00 PM / 11 years ago

NATO ministers back long-term anti-piracy mission

Armed pirates stand over French hostages aboard the yacht, April 11, 2009. REUTERS/ECPAD-French Ministry of Defence

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO defence ministers on Friday backed a plan for a long-term NATO anti-piracy mission off Somalia after the current operation ends later this month.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said a British-commanded task force involving six NATO nations would take over the mission from July 1.

“NATO will continue to play its role in the fight against piracy,” he told a news conference after a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels. Other nations had indicated they could join the new mission in future, de Hoop Scheffer added.

NATO officials said the ministers endorsed a plan for a year-long anti-piracy mission.

Somali gangs have made millions of dollars seizing vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, driving up insurance rates and other costs in key sea lanes linking Europe to Asia.

The attacks have continued despite the presence of naval forces from more than a dozen states, including others forces under EU and U.S. command. Restoring stability to Somalia itself is widely seen as the only long-term solution to the problem.

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