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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Combating Piracy and U.S. Policy in Somalia

FPC Briefing
Thomas M. Countryman
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Donald Y. Yamamoto, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
March 19, 2010

Date: 03/19/2010 Location: Washington, DC Description: Thomas M. Countryman, Principal Deputy Assistant, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs; and Donald Y. Yamamoto, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Briefing at the FPC on "Combating Piracy and U.S. Policy in Somalia." - State Dept Image


9:30 A.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Welcome to the Foreign Press Center in Washington. We’re joined today by our colleagues in New York via DVC at the New York Foreign Press Center. Unfortunately, due to timing, our colleagues at the Africa Media Hub couldn’t join us, but a couple of their journalists have submitted questions electronically, so they’ll be joining us virtually.

Today’s on-the-record briefing is “Combating Piracy and U.S. Policy in Somalia.” Our first briefer is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political and Military Affairs Thomas Countryman, who will examine maritime issues related to piracy. And our second briefer is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto, who will be examining land-based issues.

Following the principal deputy assistant secretaries’ remarks, we’ll take your questions. Please identify which briefer you would like to address. Please wait to be called on. And until you have a microphone in your hand, don’t ask your question. Please remember to identify yourself and your media outlet that you represent.

I’m now going to turn the floor over to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Countryman.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: Thank you and good morning. In January of 2009, 24 countries formed the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, under the umbrella of the United Nations. This group is now 47 countries and 10 international organizations. And what binds us together is a – first, a realization that the root causes of piracy off the coast of Somalia rests in the state of disorder that has characterized Somalia for 20 years, and that in order to completely address the issue, we have to work to re-stabilize Somalia.

The second thing that we stress within the Contact Group is that in managing the consequences of the disorder or the instability in Somalia, we can work together on a number of very specific legal, economic, and military measures that will help to deal with the consequences of piracy off the coast of Somalia. And in that regard, as an introduction, I just want to stress three or four general areas where the Contact Group brings together the nations of the world to address these problems because these measures have helped us to make some steady progress – not dramatic progress and not full success, certainly – but steady, measurable progress in dealing with the consequences of piracy.

The first area is military. In the past year, more than 20 nations have contributed to maintaining an international naval force in the Gulf of Aden. On any given day, there’s an average of about 17 naval ships on patrol in the Gulf of Aden. They have created an internationally recognized transit corridor that provides security for about 30,000 cargo ships that transit that corridor every year.

Perhaps the most impressive thing is that we have melded, put together U.S., European Union, NATO, and a number of ships from other countries, including from Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, that work together – not under a unified international command, but with a shared awareness and de-confliction system that allows these ships from different countries to work together. It’s fairly unprecedented that so many different countries are participating in a joint effort with only a coordination mechanism instead of a command mechanism.

The second area that I would mention in which the nations of the world are cooperating against piracy is in terms of the shipping industry. And this is perhaps the most important. The lowest cost and most effective measures that can be taken to deter and defeat piracy depend upon the vessels themselves depend upon ship owners taking relatively low-cost security measures to deter a pirate attack against their ship.

On the United States side, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration have required U.S.-flagged vessels to employ these best practices when they are performing the very important mission of delivering United States food assistance to this – to the Horn of Africa. And we think that it’s worked well, employing these relatively simple measures. It has proven to be, we think, the most important factor in a decline in the success of pirate attacks in the region. We hope to see other states that are major flag states require similar measures, similar best practices from the ships that fly their flags.

Third, I would mention legal prosecutions. Piracy is a universal crime. Every state has both the right and the obligation to prosecute pirates. We seek to encourage all the states who are affected by piracy, whether it’s an attack on their citizens, on their flag, or on their property to prosecute the pirates. We want to recognize in particular that Kenya has stepped forward and offered itself as one site for the prosecution of suspected pirates. And it makes sense for the Kenyans to take this responsible step.

Prosecution in the region has economic and humanitarian benefits as opposed to carrying out prosecutions thousands of miles away from the scene of the criminal activity. And in return, the United States and the European Union and other donors help the Government of Kenya to develop the kind of legal system that will serve well the citizens of Kenya in the future. And we hope also to see other countries in the broader region to perform the same kind of responsible service by undertaking the prosecution of suspected pirates.

And finally, the fourth working group under the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia deals with public outreach and public information, hoping to reach in to the people of Somalia in order to help them to realize that piracy is not an answer for their very difficult political and economic situation. This is what we do under the Contact Group on Piracy in order to address the consequences of instability in Somalia.

In order to talk about efforts on land, I’d like to turn to my colleague, Ambassador Don Yamamoto of the Bureau of African Affairs.

MODERATOR: And I think we’re going – you’re not planning on making opening statements, so we’re going to go ahead and open the floor to questions. Can I please have you approach the podium, Ambassador Yamamoto?

And the first question is going to be the one that we took virtually from the Africa Media Hub and it comes from Charles Omondi, editor, Africa division of the Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya. And Mr. Omondi asks: “The transitional Somali President Sheikh Ahmed Sharif, like his predecessor Abdullahi Yusuf, has failed to stamp his authority and restore order in the country. With both having come to power through almost similar arrangements, isn’t it high time a different, probably more radical approach to the Somali crisis was considered?”

AMBASSADOR YAMAMOTO: Thank you very much and good morning to all of you. Our stated position is not only for the United States, but also the African Union, the regional states, and the Somali themselves is – that is the Djibouti peace process. And that commitment is to ensure that the Transitional Federal Government, which is established, is supported and prospers and succeeds in this effort.

And so when they talk about – or the question is about asking for a different approach, that has to be really a Somalia issue, by the people of Somalia. That’s not something that the United States or the other countries will dictate. And it has to be in the context of the agreement that is now in place, which is through the Djibouti peace process. So I think before we even start looking at other measures, let’s look at the Djibouti peace process and ensure that this succeeds.

MODERATOR: We’re opening the floor to questions. We’ll take your question, please.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Victoria Kupchinetsky. I’m with the Voice of America with the Russian Service and I actually have three questions.

MODERATOR: Let’s limit it to one.

QUESTION: The first question is for Mr. Countryman. Would you kindly elaborate on the role of Russia in fighting piracy in that particular region?

My second question is recently a Russian ship captured several Somali pirates and they returned them to Somalia. My question is how effective do you think that move was, considering that many consider that Somalia as a very weak state and it’s a lawless country?

And my third question is, in 2009 about 80 – more than $80 million was paid in ransom to pirates. Do you think this policy should be encouraged? Do you think this encourages the piracy?

MR. COUNTRYMAN: Good questions. First, Russia participates both in the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia at the United Nations and it participates actively with a contribution of naval forces in the Gulf of Aden. It participates also in the awareness and de-confliction mechanism that operates from Bahrain. And in all of these, we welcome Russia’s commitment to participate and we see advantages in terms of getting navies of the world to work together on a common purpose. As I said, it’s unprecedented, it’s very innovative, and it is valuable for all of our navies.

On the second question, you’ve pointed exactly to one of the key challenges that we face. Although Kenya has agreed to prosecute a number of suspected pirates and although other countries, including the United States, some in Europe, have taken small numbers of pirates, suspected pirates, for prosecution, there is not right now enough legal capacity in the region to handle all the potential suspects who are apprehended. It’s a very valuable step for the Russian navy or any of the other navies in the area to apprehend pirates, to destroy the equipment that they are using for piracy. If there is no venue in the region that has the capability to prosecute, it’s true that some suspected pirates who we think should be prosecuted are eventually released. It’s still important to have the deterrence of apprehending them, but it’s far more important to build up the legal capacity in the states and entities in the region so that we have the potential to prosecute everyone who is apprehended in the act of piracy.

In terms of paying ransom, we discourage the payment of ransom. The United States Government believes that it should be avoided to the maximum extent possible, and in particular states should not participate in the payment of ransom. And again, your question points to the problem that the payment of ransom finances the continued expansion of piracy, whether it’s the purchase of boats or of weapons or of anything else that’s required. We would like to discourage it as much as possible.

MODERATOR: It looks as if a colleague of ours has joined us in New York. New York, could you please ask your question?

QUESTION: Hello, Sebastian Smith from AFP. There have been a few instances in the last few weeks where armed guards on boats – I think on a Spanish fishing boat and there’s been a few others – fired back and scared off the pirates. And this used to be something that everyone said was discouraged, but if it’s happening, does it work and would you encourage it?

MR. COUNTRYMAN: Again, there’s – I can talk about what the United States does and what we encourage other countries to do. Because we have a number of U.S.-flagged ships that are performing the urgent task of delivering humanitarian food aid to people in the Horn of Africa, they have to go closer to the centers of pirate activity. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration have required these U.S.-flagged ships to take certain preventive security measures, and in high-risk areas this is to include carrying of weapons in order to deter pirate attacks.

In our view, it works. There has not been in the last few years a case of a successful pirate hijacking of a ship in this region when the ship was carrying weapons and the means to defend itself. We have avoided in the Contact Group urging other countries to adopt the same model. We strongly believe they need to take the preventive security measures that can defend themselves and deter pirates from boarding a ship long enough so that other international help can arrive, but the Contact Group and the International Maritime Organization have not taken a position that other ships should be carrying weapons in this area.

Certainly, we want to avoid any escalation in the violence. We don’t encourage people to use weapons. But as a means of deterrence, what we’ve seen in a number of cases is the firing of warning shots is often enough to cause pirates to break off the pursuit.

MODERATOR: Next question. Williams.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you very much. My name is Williams Ekanem for Business World in Nigeria. It’s interesting to get to know what the Contact Group has been doing so far in this growing problem. However, it is also curious to know that in the areas you’ve pointed out, Mr. Countryman, we don’t have motivation. There are things that motivate these guys to go and cause these problems. And with 47 countries and 10 non organizations – nongovernmental organizations, one will have thought they would do things that de-motivate young men from going to this piracy. That’s number one.

Then, two, with these number of countries, one will have also thought that they will have also looked at where these arms supplies are coming from and maybe work towards blocking the arms supply. Thank you.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: (To Ambassador Yamamoto) You may want to do part.

First, in terms of breaking the motivation that young Somali men may have to go risk their lives, it is very much an economic question. Because of the current state of disorder in Somalia, there are not the same economic opportunities in Somalia that there should be in a peaceful society. And as a result there is an incentive, and we understand that, for young men to risk their lives and risk capture and imprisonment for the potential of a big payoff. That is what motivates criminals in a number of countries around the world. And it needs to be addressed in terms of both discouraging increasing the risk that they will spend many years in prison as a consequence. And it needs to be – there needs to be created alternatives for economic advancement within Somalia. And that, of course, is the long-term goal that we are working on is to create – help the people of Somalia to create their own society that offers peace and stability and economic development. So this is what we’re working on. The second part of your question was –


MR. COUNTRYMAN: Arms. Yes, and I don’t know if Ambassador Yamamoto wants to speak about – but the fact is that the United Nations has had an arms embargo on Somalia for a number of years. We seek to enforce the flow – to prevent the flow of weapons into Somalia. But the fact is that in their current state of disorder, Somalia is a fairly large arms bazaar, where obtaining weapons that are useful – and these are fairly simple weapons – that are useful against – in a pirate attack, is not a difficult thing to do. It is part of the challenge, but the steps to prevent it have been in place for many years with limited success.

MODERATOR: Next. Would you like to add anything?


MODERATOR: Okay, next question. Okay, I see in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My question goes to Mr. Countryman.

MODERATOR: Please identify yourself.

QUESTION: Frederick Nnoma-Addison, AMIP News. I beg your pardon. You talked about public information, using public information as a means of communicating, engaging the Somali people. My question is what’s your strategy since there is no functional government? How do you actually execute this effectively? Thank you.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: Again, exactly the right question, sir. Very difficult to do. I’ve never been to Somalia. My understanding is that although there is no functioning central government, there are many elements of society that function. There are many means of communication, including radio stations, including wide-spread use of cell phones, more than you might expect in that situation. And these are media that can be used to seek to address the Somali people. We don’t believe that the majority of Somali people believe that piracy is an honorable thing to do. We think it contradicts the values that they hold in their culture and their religion. But in order to counter some of the justifications and rationalizations that pirates may give in a local community, we need to find ways to get that message out via the media that they use and in their own language and in a way that makes sense to them. It’s a big challenge without a centralized government and without centralized communication means. We think it’s possible. Egypt has been the chairman of working group number four under the Contact Group that has developed some ideas, but they are ideas that we need to take forward in implementation, ideally, with more funding than we have so far.

AMBASSADOR YAMAMOTO: (Inaudible) Just a follow-up on Tom’s comments. As you know, the Somalis are probably one of the most highly connected to the internet and cell phone usage. In fact, there’s more impact in Somalia than the neighboring states. And so getting information there is very quick. In fact, if you look at the Somali websites and in the blogs, I’m just amazed at the information that we can get from that much quicker and faster than from other means, et cetera. And the other issue, too, is that the government of the transitional federal government is trying to make every effort. They have their own radio station, which is broadcasting through Mogadishu. And also the Voice of America has a program; also BBC. And so there’s a lot of interconnectivity in getting information out.

MODERATOR: I see there’s a question in the far back, as well.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi, Idil Osman with the VOA Somali Service. My question is to Mr. – Ambassador Yamamoto. The monitoring group has recently submitted a report to the UN Security Council, and they state – some of the points that they made was that Puntland administration has links to the pirates. In fact, they said that they’re supporting the pirates. Is the U.S. looking into that allegation?

AMBASSADOR YAMAMOTO: Yeah, we saw the initial advance copy on the report. The issues that – these are things that’s not just for the United States, obviously. It’s for the United Nations, the member states, the TFG government itself, and also the other entities that are around Somaliland and Puntland. Those are issues that we’re looking at very closely and we take it very seriously. And some of the questions or issues that were raised by Mr. Matt Bryden, who is one of the principal writers, I guess, and then the others are very troubling and we are going to look into it very, very closely. Thanks.

MODERATOR: Next question. Mina?

QUESTION: Thank you. Mina Al-Oraibi, Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper. I have a couple of questions. My first is regarding the various reports we’ve been hearing about American support for Somali, local forces, and the TFG’s forces, if you can give us some updates on that, what’s the sort of development that you can help so that law and order within the country itself improves. And my second question is regarding al-Qaida in the area. What sort of developments are we seeing there? Have you been able to counter that? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR YAMAMOTO: Right now, is – the transitional federal government is engaged in an offensive in Mogadishu. And the other issue is the AMISOM troops are there to try to keep or stabilize the situation in Mogadishu. I think one of the problems that the – that we face in Somalia, it’s really by the al-Shabaabs. As you know, through the World Food Program, the United States, which provides the majority of food assistance to Somalia, about $151 million last year – we’re the largest donors – cannot even provide food assistance to those in need in areas south of Mogadishu because of the insecurity created by the al-Shabaab forces. And, as you know, one of the issues that we’re looking at not only in Somalia but in all of East Africa, is the issue of the extended droughts, climatic changes, and more important is to provide food assistance. And this area, the Horn of Africa, is, for the United States, one of the largest food recipient areas in the world, bar none.

So what we’re trying to do is how do you reach out to the people of Somalia? How do you ensure that they are not only getting the food assistance that they require, but also the opportunities to determine their own lives? And so that is the issue that we have at hand is to support, through the Transitional Federal Government, to help to bring stability and expand their governance through the country.

QUESTION: And you want to (inaudible) al-Qaida? (Laughter.)

MR. COUNTRYMAN: I don’t know al-Qaida (inaudible) Shabaab (inaudible).

AMBASSADOR YAMAMOTO: The issue comes in is there are a lot of groups – the al-Shabaabs, the Hizbul al-Islam – there are individuals who are tied to or have links with the al-Qaida Arabian Peninsula and other extremist organizations. Yet there are also groups that have extremist ties to local groups, for instance groups that are trying to undermine programs in neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and up to Djibouti, even in Kenya.

So the issue comes in is, how do you bring the fundamental issues – how do you bring stability to that region? And what we’ve decided with the African Union, the Somali people, has been through the Transitional Federal Government. And really, that is the basis for trying to bring the stability and addressing the extremism that is in that area.

MODERATOR: It looks as if we have a question in the back.

QUESTION: Nikolay Zimin, Russian (inaudible) Itogi (inaudible). I’m sure you in State Department are doing the great deal of work studying the nature of piracy, modern piracy and its causes, and so on. And could you please make -- try to make a psychological profile of modern pirate? Who is he? How old, et cetera? Thank you.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: We haven’t attempted to do that yet, but it’s a fascinating question so I’ll offer a couple of comments. The most important thing is to distinguish between the young men who go to sea and the crime bosses who make the money. It’s not hard in a place like Somalia with the unemployment that is present there and the lack of economic opportunity to find young men who are willing to risk their lives in an unfamiliar environment – the sea, in an unfamiliar enterprise – hostage-taking for ransom, and who face the risk of either violence or being apprehended and put to jail. They’re willing to do it for a fairly small reward.

You need to distinguish between those young men and the crime bosses who send them out there, recognizing that, for the crime boss, that young Somali man is just as disposable as the cheap little fishing boat that he’s sailing in or the AK-47 that he’s armed with. The primary profits go back to the individual who has financed the venture. Some of it trickles into the Somali economy. We believe that much more of it floods out of the Somali economy to enrich those who were able to finance the initial operation and to put the money into another safe location.

You can do a psychological profile of a pirate. I think it would have very little in common with what you might see in a movie about 18th century pirates. And I think it would be a lot more like the similar profile of either criminal bosses or disposable individuals that you would find in any other criminal activity.

MODERATOR: Let’s go with – Voice of America has a follow-up question.

QUESTION: Thank you. I have a follow-up question on the al-Qaida question. Right now, the pirates, as you are explaining, it’s basically the economic reasons why they go there. What are the chances that, at some point, the extremist groups, for example, al-Qaida and other extremist groups, will take control of the activities and from just men who get – want to get some money, they become suicide bombers and terrorists?

MR. COUNTRYMAN: Well, a couple of points. First, to go back to Ambassador Yamamoto’s earlier comments, al-Qaida in the Arabia Peninsula, for example, and Al-Shabaab in Somalia, there’s some overlap, there’s some cooperation, but they are not exactly the same thing. And it doesn’t help either the analysis or the policy to simply conflate them as being exactly the same.

Similarly, for pirates and Al-Shabaab within Somalia, pirates operate, in some cases, from zones which are controlled by Al-Shabaab. Is it likely that there is connection, cooperation, even money flows? Yes, if you’re operating from a port that is under the physical control of Al-Shabaab, you have to expect that is so.

Similarly, as al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations in the past, they have sought to use established criminal enterprises, whether weapons smuggling, drug smuggling, human trafficking, in order to advance their own goals or as a service, if you will, that supports terrorist activities. Should you expect that they would look to use pirates in the same way? I think you have to expect that if there is an opportunity for a terrorist group to use the particular skill that pirates have – which by the way, is not a terribly sophisticated skill compared to human trafficking or drug trafficking – that they would take that opportunity.

But again, it doesn’t help your analysis and it doesn’t help your policy if you view piracy as part of your terrorism problem. You have to view the particular causes and the useful steps that can be taken in their own right.

MODERATOR: Next question. Frederick has a follow-up question. Don’t forget to identify yourself, Frederick.

QUESTION: Thank you. Frederick Nnoma Addison, AMIP News, once again. I’m just curious to find out are there local grassroots Somali organizations and groups that are working to confront and address this problem, or is it purely the concern of international community? Thank you.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: Thank you for that because I should have pointed out in my first remarks that the effort of the Somali people in order to reestablish their society as peaceful, as stable, and as offering economic chances, this effort is primarily an effort led by the Somali people themselves. And there are so many brave individuals who, in large ways and small ways, are seeking just to bring normalcy back to their lives.

If you talk, for example, about radio stations that are operating that are seeking to give the Somali people an accurate picture of what’s happening in their own country and in their own region, it’s not an easy enterprise, and yet there are people within Somalia who are working very hard on that. I would say the same about anti-piracy in general. The international community, through broadcasting or through the internet or in other ways, can help to provide information about why there is no justification for piracy and why it is inflicting a greater environment of criminality upon Somalis who have already suffered enough. We can do that from outside, but in fact, it’s people who are doing it from inside – domestic media in Somalia – who have the best arguments and the best capability to reach their own people. And for this, we can only salute them.

MODERATOR: Okay. Yes, it looks like we have a question. Oh, I’m sorry.

AMBASSADOR YAMAMOTO: Yeah, just a follow-up on it, and it’s really a – and all your questions have been excellent and very thought-provoking. The bottom line is that to address not only piracy but other issues as symptomatic of the ongoing violence within Somalia, is how do you address the violence in Somalia? How do you really get at the root causes? And that really is the issue that we’re trying to tackle with the Transitional Government and the people of Somalia, and not only in terms of working with civil society and groups that have the courage to stand up to extremist organizations and groups and to say, “No, we’re not going to take that. We’re going to create a better tomorrow for the children of Somalia.”

And with the youth at being a very high rate over – you know, over half of the population will be under 25, not just in Africa but in other parts of the world, is how you address those aspirations and those hopes. And what you raise is a very poignant point, is that we need to work closer with these civil sociey and grassroots groups to address those issues.

MODERATOR: Our next question, please. Yes.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. My name is Qiang Zou with the Legal Daily of China. I’ve got two questions. One is that could you – what’s your assessment about China’s role-playing in the issue of piracy? Secondly, that you mentioned about the legal prosecution – I just wonder, could you elaborate a little bit more on that progress? Let’s see, have we got to know that what’s – how big is the group and what are the root cause for the piracy and what kind of comprehensive international initiative or mechanism which should go for this on the piracy issue? Thank you.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: First, we assess positively the contribution that the Chinese navy has made in combating piracy. They have participated not simply in escorting their own nation’s flag vessels, as a couple of nations have done, but have participated in the shared awareness and de-confliction mechanism that we use.

We think it’s positive not only for its immediate impact on piracy, but it’s also, in my opinion and speaking much more broadly, a positive message. China depends just as much as the United States or the European Union depends upon freedom of the seas and freedom of commerce for its economic prosperity. And we have long recognized that this requires us as a nation to undertake security missions far from our own borders in order to uphold that principle of freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce. And we welcome China and the other nations that have recognized the same reality and that are undertaking global responsibilities in their own interests.

The second part of your question was?

QUESTION: About the legal prosecution.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: Legal prosecution. Piracy is already a crime. It is one of the longest-standing internationally recognized crimes. And it has, as a long-established principle in international law, global jurisdiction; that is, each country has the right to prosecute pirates that it apprehends.

Now, a couple hundred years ago, the trial was brief, the sentence was fairly certain, and it was immediately carried out. In today’s world, we have to apply 21st century standards of human rights and legal protection. But we believe that there are many states in the world, including in Africa and in the surrounding region, that are capable of applying those modern standards of human rights. What they need is the will and the determination to share in the burden of prosecuting pirates. It should not fall only to one country in the region to be the sole place where pirates are prosecuted.

We don’t believe that a more comprehensive international legal mechanism is necessary. We don’t have a special international criminal court to deal with other crimes of global significance. We don’t have a special mechanism for human trafficking or for weapons trafficking. We have agreements among each other to cooperate in the prosecution in national courts of those who are fueling global trade in these dangerous areas – drug merchants, arms merchants, human traffickers. And pirates is in the same way at its base a crime that requires the dedication of individual states and the cooperation of individual states. We don’t believe it requires a dramatic new global mechanism.

MODERATOR: Maria, you have the next question.

QUESTION: Maria Tabak, Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Just a quick follow-up for the question about Russia. I wonder if at some point of time we can expect any bilateral agreement between Russia and the United States. And also, is question of piracy is being discussed on any bilateral level, I mean on the level of working groups, or any other? Thank you.

MR. COUNTRYMAN: I don’t expect any bilateral agreement on piracy. It’s a topic that we do discuss bilaterally in normal diplomatic contacts with a number of countries. But what is interesting about the Contact Group – if I said it was exciting, I would be exaggerated – but what is interesting about the Contact Group is that it’s a voluntary organization under a United Nations umbrella in which very significant work is being done by these four working groups on security measures, on legal measures, on development of regional capacity, and on public information. And Russia is an active participant in each of these. And here, rather than bilaterally, I think, is where the essential work against piracy is being done.

MODERATOR: Okay. It appeared that that was the last question. I didn’t see any other hands raised. So with Maria’s question, we’re going to end today’s briefing. I would like to say thank you, Ambassador Yamamoto and PDAS Countryman. Thank you very much for your time today.

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