European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that the EU mission’s planned mission to the Red Sea was “purely defensive.”
It aims to protect commercial ships from attacks by the Yemeni “Houthi” group.
This came during Borrell’s speech at the Third Ministerial Forum of the European Union and the Indo-Pacific Region, which began in the morning in the Belgian capital, Brussels.
“Disrupting freedom of navigation has consequences that go beyond economic losses,” Borrell said. “It is not just a matter of (spending) a few days or a few extra dollars, it is a matter of peace and stability.”
During the past months, the Houthis carried out attacks against commercial ships passing through the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait.
International shipping companies were forced to reroute their flights via the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa instead of the Red Sea, which increased shipping costs and the prices of goods.
Borrell added: “For this reason, we are actively working with our international partners to restore maritime security in the Red Sea.
We are progressing in work on a new naval operation that we have called ASPIDES, which is an ancient name from the Greek language and means shield.”
He pointed out that the mission of the European operation differs from the US-led “Prosperity Sentinel” operation, which includes attacks against Houthi targets in Yemen.
Borrell said that the goal of the European operation “is not to launch any attack, but only defense,” adding that the mission “will deploy at sea and will not carry out any operation on land.”
On January 31, Borrell announced a naval mission called “Aspides” to protect commercial ships in the Red Sea against Houthi attacks, which will officially launch by February 19.
At an intermittent pace since January 12, a US-led coalition has been launching raids that it says target “Houthi sites” in various regions of Yemen.
This was in response to its attacks in the Red Sea, which was met with a response from the group from time to time.
And “in solidarity with the Gaza Strip,” which has been subjected to a devastating Israeli war with American support since October 7, 2023.
The Houthis target, with missiles and drones, cargo ships in the Red Sea that are owned or operated by Israeli companies or that transport goods to and from Israel.