Australia will host a counter-piracy conference in Perth next year as part of its ongoing commitment to international counter-piracy efforts.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced the Conference at a Forum on Indian Ocean Piracy in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting today, chaired by Mr Rudd and the European Union (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Cathy Ashton.
"Piracy off the Horn of Africa has seen murders and hundreds of seafarers taken hostage.
"As at early October, 316 people and 15 vessels were being held hostage by pirates," said Mr Rudd.
"Piracy has also increased the costs of international trade, and done enormous harm to regional countries' fishing and tourist industries."
Mr Smith said Australia is closely engaged in regional and international counter-piracy efforts.
"Australia has assisted international military efforts off the Horn of Africa, including through an Australian naval frigate and maritime patrol aircraft deployed in the US-led Combined Maritime Force," said Mr Smith.
"Australia is also a major supporter of the Counter-Piracy Program of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to enhance the capacity of the judicial and corrections systems in Somalia, Kenya, Seychelles and other states in the region.
"For its part, the EU is a key player in international efforts to address this scourge off the Horn of Africa," Mr Smith said.
The Forum today took place in the same week that the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution urging the international community to reinforce efforts to criminalise piracy.
"More must be done to prosecute, convict and imprison pirates," said Mr Rudd.
The Forum recognised that many countries in the Indian Ocean region shared a common legal heritage which provided opportunities to work together to support criminal justice approaches to counter-piracy.
The counter-piracy conference in Perth in 2012 will explore ways to assist Somalia and other affected countries to address the drivers of piracy.
It will also afford an opportunity to compare the experiences of counter-piracy cooperation in other regions, such as South-East Asia and West Africa.
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