DJIBOUTI, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Regional input into international efforts against piracy off the Somali coast is a top priority, participants of a Contact Group on Piracy forum said.
"There is still a threat to shipping in the area," Rich Froh, NATO's deputy assistant secretary general for operations who led the alliance's delegation, said Thursday in a release.
Froh said the participants were discussing top priorities, "including regional capacity building to fight piracy."
That Djbouti was selected as the meeting site demonstrates how important it and its neighbors are in combating piracy, a U.S. State Department official said.
"Djibouti understands the important role they play in the fight against piracy. They, like their neighbors in the region, are still adversely affected by piracy and while attacks are down, the threat remains," said Donna Hopkins, the State Department official who leads the contact group. "It will become increasingly important for all the regional countries, including Somalia, to take a leadership role in countering piracy, which the international community has worked so hard to address over the past five years."
Officials said the number of attacks dropped significantly during the last year although they did not provide numbers. Officials also said there hasn't been a successful hijacking of a commercial vessel off the coast of Somalia for more than a year.
More than 200 participants including representatives from African nations, the shipping industry, legal experts and NATO attended the conference that ended Thursday.