Securing release of fifteen Georgian sailors from 16-month long Somali pirates’ captivity demonstrated that Georgia has become the state, which is capable of protecting its citizens, President Saakashvili said on January 10.
Malta-flagged ship with 15 Georgians and three Turks onboard was pirated in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia on September 8, 2010.
Saakashvili said in televised remarks, that the Georgian authorities were working to secure release of the sailors on daily basis. He said that even “some of our friends” were telling Georgia to give up trying to free the sailors, because it was a problem beyond Georgia’s capabilities to tackle.
“But we have not given up our [efforts] for even a second,” Saakashvili said, adding that intensive efforts were made behind the scenes not even telling about it to the families of captive sailors. “Even some of the families of sailors were criticizing us, but we were not telling them what we were doing, because disclosure of our efforts would have foiled our [attempts].”
According to the Georgian president’s administration Deputy Economy Minister, Giorgi Karbelashvili, was tasked by Saakashvili to lead the efforts to secure release of the sailors. Saakashvili praised Karbelashvili and said that the Deputy Economy Minister had traveled to the region for number of times building contacts there.
“Georgia has no people to lose. Georgia is the state, which will fight to the end for saving the life of each and every person. We have no ambition and goal higher than protecting interests of each and every citizen… I want to congratulate families [of sailors] as their loved ones are coming back,” Saakashvili said.
Details about the release of the sailor are not reported and the Georgian authorities deny paying ransom to pirates.
The Somalia Report website reported, that all 18 crew members - fifteen Georgians and three Turks, as well as the cargo ship itself were freed by the pirates after receiving USD 3 million in ransom.
Karbelashvili told Imedi TV via phone without going into details, that the release of the crew was a result of lengthy and intensive efforts by the Georgian authorities, which, he said, also involved number of behind-the-scenes meetings and negotiations in which he also participated. He said without specifying, that about six month ago the Georgian authorities “had been offered to carry out a military operation”, but it was declined as such option posed risk to safety of the captive sailors.