EU foreign ministers on Monday extended the bloc's Somali anti-piracy mission Atalanta until December 2014, but did not act on plans to attack pirate gangs on land as well as at sea.
Ministers "agreed to extend the mandate of EU-NAVFOR Atalanta until December 2014", a statement said as talks focused on Syria and Serbia began in Brussels.
Diplomatic sources last week said discussions were being held on fine-tuning "an enlargement of the area of operations of the anti-piracy mission to the beach", but there was no mention of this idea in the statement.
Though no boots on the ground, European Union nations see a scope for extending their capacity to take action against trucks, supplies, boats and fuel stocked by pirates on the beaches.
Atalanta, typically consisting of a handful of surface combat vessels plus one or two back-up ships and two to three reconnaissance aircraft, is tasked with escorting merchant vessels carrying humanitarian aid to Somalia while deterring and disrupting piracy.
Since its launch it has arrested and sent for prosecution 117 suspected pirates and last year alone disrupted 27 pirate action groups.
EU nations believe beach operations launched from sea or air, and if agreed by the Somali government and the United Nations, would bolster the anti-piracy mission.
But Germany, which has troops active in the mission, needs further information on rules of engagement before Berlin can greenlight any operational extension, sources said.
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