RIYADH — Delegations of the Gulf states and other Arab countries met in the Saudi capital of Riyadh last week to examine and discuss measures to provide better security for the most important maritime passageways in the region, where pirates have wreaked havoc over the past year.
Representatives from foreign ministries and senior naval officials across the region reached an agreement quickly during a short summit to form a multinational task force that will patrol the Red Sea to secure and protect passing commercial ships from any potential attacks by Somali pirates.
The six Gulf States of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Sudan and Djibouti, agreed that defending the security of the Red Sea is the primary responsibility of littoral states.
Saudi Arabia will initially provide leadership for the new Special Arab Naval Force. Royal Saudi Navy Commander Lt Gen Prince Fahd Bin Abdullah said after the meeting that a number of issues related to the task force remain to be resolved that are currently under negotiation. The commander indicated, however, that a final agreement would be reached soon.
Abdullah added that the task force was discussed in coordination with Arab and other international forces already patrolling the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden where piracy operations are widespread. Abdullah also noted that, "One of the goals of the meeting was to discuss joint Arab and multinational force operations working and agree on the mechanisms by which Arab states would contribute."