Maritime Security Conference Brings Gulf of Guinea Navies Together

NAPLES, Italy -- Leaders of 17 navies from West Africa, Europe and the United States met this week to discuss opportunities for cooperation and enhanced maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea region.

The conference was an opportunity in which the navy leadership of these African nations could discuss and address their common interests, challenges and threats, including the threats posed by a rising tide in piracy, smuggling and drug trafficking.

The U.S. European Command sponsored the three-day 2004 Gulf of Guinea Maritime Security Conference, which was hosted by Admiral Gregory Johnson, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

"The fight against terrorism has demonstrated to all of us a new demand for integrated maritime security, especially in coastal regions," said Johnson. "The nations bordering the Gulf of Guinea are certainly no exception to that reality. What we hoped to achieve, and what I think we accomplished through this conference, was a process for open dialogue and cooperation between these navies to deal with their common challenges."

Participants included naval leaders from Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo. Other attendees included France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The conference featured discussions about combating piracy, the illegal trafficking of weapons, drugs and people, and the need to reduce maritime threats to economic development such as those over national fishing rights and offshore oil production.

Senior participants signed a joint declaration at the conclusion of the conference pledging their support to ongoing dialogue, cooperation and activities.

"The fight against global threats to peace and security can only be effective within the context of global partnership and shared responsibility," noted Ambassador Ahmedou Ould-Adallah, United Nations Special Representative for West Africa. "For that reason, I would like to praise the initiative of this conference."

Admiral Johnson echoed that feeling.

"The spirit of cooperation and mutual support displayed this week was simply incredible," noted Johnson. "It will be that same spirit that helps us foster closer and more effective working relationships over the long haul. I couldn't have been more pleased with the robust participation and enthusiasm these naval leaders brought to the discussion."

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