EU launches naval mission to protect Red Sea shipping

By Thomson Reuters Feb 19, 2024 | 12:08 PM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union launched on Monday a naval mission to the Red Sea “to restore and safeguard freedom of navigation” there.

The “defensive maritime security operation”, dubbed Eunavfor Aspides, comes after Iranian-aligned Houthi militants started attacking international shipping in the Red Sea in support of Palestinian militant group Hamas in its war with Israel.

“The European Union is responding swiftly to the necessity to restore maritime security and freedom of navigation in a highly strategic maritime corridor”, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“Within its defensive mandate, the operation will provide maritime situational awareness, accompany vessels, and protect them against possible multi-domain attacks at sea,” the statement added.

The statement did not specify how many vessels would be involved and a EU spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But EU diplomats previously told Reuters it would initially involve three vessels under EU command as part of the EU’s so-called Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Germany already sent an air defence frigate earlier this month to join the mission, and two diplomats have told Reuters that France and Italy would also contribute.

The EU said the mission would be active along the main sea lines of communication in the Baab al-Mandab Strait and the Strait of Hormuz, as well as international waters in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and the Gulf.

(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout and Andrew Gray; Editing by Mark Potter)