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Brussels, 05 October 2010

EU High Representative/ Commission Vice President Ashton visits South Africa and Mauritius

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Commission Vice-President will visit South Africa (October 6) and Mauritius (October 7-9) this week to discuss strengthening strategic dialogue, deepening regional cooperation in the fight against piracy and contribution to international efforts for stability in Somalia.

HR/VP Ashton said ahead of her trip: "South Africa is an important strategic partner of the European Union on a number of regional and international issues of common interest such as regional security in Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia as well as in the fight against piracy. It is a key emerging partner of the EU on issues of global governance such as climate change and trade."

During her one-day visit to South Africa, HR/VP Ashton will meet key government officials including President Jacob Zuma, Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

In particular she will discuss enhanced cooperation between South Africa and EUNAVFOR Somalia - Operation Atalanta which has proven a major success since its launch in December 2008 -- protecting World Food Programme vessels delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia, vulnerable civilian vessels sailing in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia and deterring, preventing and repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery.

In Mauritius, HR/VP Ashton will co-chair her second regional Ministerial conference on piracy following on from the first regional meeting on piracy in Seychelles in May which paved the way to launch a regional counter-piracy strategy. In July the four regional organizations (COMESA, IOC, IGAD, EAC), plus the countries in the region met in Seychelles and developed a draft anti-piracy action plan.

Catherine Ashton said: "Piracy is one of the big challenges of our times both for the region and for the international community. It undermines maritime security in the Indian Ocean and stability and development in the region.

The countries in the region have taken an active role in developing a regional approach based on three key elements - Somalia strategy, prosecution and detention of pirates and maritime governance. The long term solution of course lies on land and on development and a lasting political solution in Somalia. During the conference in Mauritius, I will reiterate the EU's full support for this strategy and the action plan developed by the countries in the region and regional organisations."

HR/VP Ashton will also hold bilateral meetings with the President and Prime Minister of Mauritius and foreign ministers from other countries in the region who will be present in Mauritius.

Note to editor:

The EU is committed to a regional approach to piracy off the coast of Somalia, based on ownership of the countries concerned and EU support for their efforts to ensure the prosecution and detention of suspected pirates.

The EU is also committed to stability and security in Somalia and to responding to the needs of the Somali people. In this context, the EU just launched a training mission (EUTM) in Uganda to train Somali troops.

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