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SNMG-2 Command Handover Ceremony In Aksaz

The ships of  NATO’s Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) are in Aksaz Naval Base, in Turkey for the Command hand over ceremony.

The Italian LPD, L-9893 ITS San Marco was the flagship of SNMG-2 for the last 6 months when the task force was conducting anti piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. The Spanish Navy has now the command of the SNMG-2 till the end of 2013. The Spanish Alvaro De Bazan class frigate F-103 SPS Blas De Lezo is the new flagship. The current composition of the SNMG-2 consists of SPS Blas De Lezo and F-246 TCG Salihreis.

This is the official NATO announcement about the hand over ceremony:

Rear Admiral Antonio Natale, Italian Navy, handed over command of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) today to Rear Admiral Eugenio Díaz Del Río, Spanish Navy, concluding a very successful six-month NATO deployment. The ceremony, presided over by Vice Admiral Peter Hudson, NATO’s Maritime Commander, took place at the Aksaz Naval base in Turkey.

Admiral Natale and the international NATO staff embarked on board ITS SAN MARCO took command of SNMG2 on 23 November 2012. Out of the almost seven months Admiral Natale spent at the helm of the Group, he devoted six to commanding NATO counter-piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD’S Task Force 508. During his rotation the Task Force has consisted of ITS SAN MARCO (Italy), USS HALYBURTON (U.S.), HDMS IVER HUITFELDT (Denmark), USS NICHOLAS (U.S.), HNLMS VAN SPEIJK (The Netherlands) and TCG GOKOVA (Turkey).

Under Admiral Natale’s command, Task Force 508 was able to successfully deter piracy in the Gulf of Aden, disrupting two attempted attacks in December and January. The Group’s actions actively contributed to a streak of preventing successful hijackings for more than a year.  
“What has been accomplished during this deployment is yet again proof of NATO’s validity as a framework for achieving real results” said Admiral Hudson. “If NATO is the link that allows us to work together in difficult tasks such as fighting piracy, the nations, in this case Italy and now Spain provide the necessary strength.”

Admiral Natale and his team never took this relative improvement in the security of the region for granted.  Taking a particularly proactive stance, the Task Force seized every opportunity to engage with all major stakeholders in the fight against piracy. NATO warships met on five occasions with their Russian counterparts from the Pacific and Baltic fleets, conducting two joint trainings at sea. TF508 units also met with the Chinese counter-piracy task group and conducted several activities together, such as medical assistance to the Somali population in early June, setting the tone for a promising NATO-China cooperation in the region.

Mindful that the suppression of piracy can only be achieved by empowering neighbouring states to take full ownership of their maritime security, TF508 has been particularly engaged with assisting Tanzania, Kenya, Djibouti, the U.A.E, Oman, the Seychelles and Yemen in consolidating their own counter-piracy capabilities. NATO forces have also engaged on fifteen occasions with Somali coastal villages, meeting with local leaders to exchange information on the reality and the risks involved in piracy activities, and also providing medical assistance to the population.
 
“We have reached a turning point in the way we address the issue of piracy. Deterrence at sea is of course essential to guarantee freedom of navigation, but it is not enough. We must continue to reach out to a wide range of actors ashore and assist their efforts to deal with piracy in a self-reliant way and to bring law and justice to Somalia” said Admiral Natale, looking back on this six-month deployment.

“The flexibility, freedom of movement, autonomy and high level of readiness, which characterise Standing NATO Maritime Groups, make them tools of choice for NATO across the entire spectrum of the Alliance’s missions. I can assure you that Spain and all the nations participating in SNMG2 are acutely aware of this responsibility”said Rear Admiral Díaz Del Río before returning to his flagship. SNMG2 units will now proceed to their patrol area in the Mediterranean in support of Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR and guarantee the continuity of NATO’s watch on the seas.

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