RIGA - Except for a monetary contribution from Estonia, the Baltic states have decided not to participate in an EU plan to join the U.N. in fighting piracy in Somalia.
"The EU has not yet made a decision on the launch of the operation in Somalia and on the military capacities to be involved in this naval operation. Latvia does not plan to take part in it yet," said Latvian Defense Ministry spokesman Arturs Graudins.
The Lithuanian defense minister's spokeswoman, Ruta Apeikyte, told the Baltic News Service that Lithuania welcomed the EU's decision to join the United Nations anti-piracy resolution.
"Nevertheless, Lithuania does not plan to participate in the operation for now," Apeikyte said.
She explained that decisions regarding troops in international regarding troops in operations were made by Parliament.
As of Oct. 6, Lithuanian parliamentarians have only granted the mandate for international operations in four regions: in the Balkans, Central and Southern Asia, South Caucasus and the Persian Gulf.
"The EU initiative will be discussed with relevant institutions before we can make any decisions," Apeikyte said.
The pirates currently hold the weapons-laden Ukrainian cargo ship Faina, along with a 21-member crew hailing from Latvia, Ukraine and Russian.
Six U.S. warships have encircled the vessel to prevent its cargo of 33 tanks and other weapons from being sold to al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Somalia.
However, despite the overpowering international force, the Somali pirates are determined to "fight to the death," according to pirate spokesman Sugule Ali.
Though the pirates claim to only want the 11 million-pound (14 million-euro) ransom, the international community is concerned that the pirates' links to al-Qaida may result in a threat to global security.
Russia is also working with European and U.S. counterparts and has joined the security effort by sending the missile frigate Neustrashimy to the scene.
Because nearly 30 percent of the world's oil output is transported through Somalia's Gulf of Aden, it is clear why the international community is concerned.
"Many countries want to participate. Ten countries have given a clear agreement to take part in the mission," said French Defense Minister HervÃ© Morin during a meeting of EU defense ministers in France. Belgium, France, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Sweden and the U.K. have voiced their support for the mission.
Armed pirates have seized more than 60 ships in the Somali waters this year alone along one of the key maritime routes to the Suez Canal, used to transport oil, weapons and other cargo between Europe and Asia.
The problem of piracy in Somalia is long-standing and has skyrocketed since the beginning of 2008, with attacks increasing in the last three months. Commonly the ransoms have been paid, and the attacks are becoming increasingly well-organized and the attackers increasingly well-armed.
Piracy is considered the largest economy in Somalia, as pirates have raked in over 30 million dollars (22 million euros) in 2008 alone.
The high profile of the current hijacking is due to the vessel's weapons cargo. Analysts do not expect piracy levels to decrease any time soon as the conflict in Somalia rages on and money and jobs are scarce.