x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE praised for arms vessel seizure

Western officials commend the UAE's vigilance in stopping the flow of contraband material following the seizure of a ship carrying North Korean weapons reportedly to Iran.

NEW YORK // Western officials commended the UAE's vigilance in stopping the flow of contraband material following the seizure of a cargo ship illegally carrying North Korean weapons reportedly to Iran. The seizure of the vessel, reportedly transporting rocket-propelled grenades and other basic weaponry that was labelled as "machine parts" in violation of UN sanctions, underscored the concerted effort being put into interdicting the flow of such material.

"We can confirm that the UAE detained a vessel containing illicit material," said a senior western official, speaking on condition of anonymity late Friday. The seizure, he said, demonstrated that the UAE Government had "remained vigilant" in the face of illicit trade in weapons. The official added: "This demonstrates that the international community is taking seriously United Nations Resolution 1874 and shows that we remain vigilant."

Soon after the vessel was seized and brought into a UAE port, Emirati officials informed the UN Security Council's sanctions committee responsible for implementing embargo measures against Pyongyang two weeks ago. The sanctions committee, which is chaired by Turkey, has asked Iran for an explanation of the incident, while also thanking the UAE for interdicting the vessel. "The committee has received information regarding an alleged violation of the sanctions that have been put on North Korea and this information is being considered and processed by the committee at this moment," a Turkish diplomat said.

UAE ports officials contacted yesterday could not comment on the current location of the vessel, which has been identified by the Financial Times as the Bahamian-flagged ANL-Australia. The Turkish diplomat said the vessel would probably remain in the UAE port, as yet unnamed, "for some time" while inspections are carried out to determine exactly what weapons are on board. The diplomat said committee members are waiting for more information on the cargo ship and the weapons it was carrying and will discuss the seizure at a future meeting, although a date for the session has yet to be confirmed.

However, the diplomat said, "committee deliberations are confidential unless it has been decided by the committee to release any information publicly". The latest seizure by UAE officials may help answer criticism, especially in the US congress, over UAE border security as the two countries inch closer to finalising a nuclear technology sharing deal. The so-called "123 agreement", which has secured support from the Obama administration, is currently under a mandatory 90-day congressional review. It has received endorsements from key US legislators in the House and Senate and is expected to come into force on October 17, when the review period expires. But several US legislators have raised concerns over the flow of material from the UAE to Iran.

Resolution 1874, an expanded arms embargo, imposed financial sanctions against Iran, and called for the inspection of air, sea and land shipments going to and from North Korea suspected of containing nuclear or missile-related materials. The binding resolution permits countries to seize and dispose of items that breach the embargo and calls on member states to inform the committee of any action taken to implement sanctions.

@Email:jreinl@thenational.ae