Security and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea: Council launches EUNAVFOR ASPIDES

Security and freedom of navigation in the Red Sea: Council launches EUNAVFOR ASPIDES

The Council launched today EUNAVFOR ASPIDES. The objective of this defensive maritime security operation is to restore and safeguard freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf.

Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

With the launch of EUNAVFOR ASPIDES, the European Union is responding swiftly to the necessity to restore maritime security and freedom of navigation in a highly strategic maritime corridor. The operation will play a key role in safeguarding commercial and security interests, for the sake of the EU and the wider international community.

Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Operation ASPIDES will ensure an EU naval presence in the area where numerous Houthi attacks have targeted international commercial vessels since October 2023. In close cooperation with like-minded international partners, ASPIDES will contribute to safeguard maritime security and ensure freedom of navigation, especially for merchant and commercial vessels. Within its defensive mandate, the operation will provide maritime situational awareness, accompany vessels, and protect them against possible multi-domain attacks at sea.

The operation will 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.

The Operation Commander will be Commodore Vasileios Gryparis, and the Force Commander will be Rear Admiral Stefano Costantino. The Operation headquarters will be based in Larissa, Greece.

Operation ASPIDES will coordinate closely with the EUNAVFOR ATALANTA to contribute to maritime security in the West Indian Ocean and in the Red Sea,  as well as, with like-minded partners contributing to maritime security in its area of operation.

Background

Since October 2023, numerous Houthi attacks have targeted vessels in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. Such attacks jeopardise the life of civilians on merchant and commercial vessels, and constitute a breach of the freedom of the high seas and of the right of transit passage in straits used for international navigation enshrined in United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

On 10 January 2024, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2722 (2024), condemning in the strongest terms the Houthi attacks on merchant and commercial vessels; underscoring the importance of the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms of vessels of all states in the Red Sea, including for merchant and commercial vessels transiting the Baab al Mandab Strait. In accordance with international law, the UNSC demanded the immediate cessation of Houthis’ attacks, affirming that the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms by merchant and commercial vessels, in accordance with international law, must be respected, and taking note of the right of member states, in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks, including those that undermine navigational rights and freedoms.

On 29 January 2024, the Council approved a Crisis Management Concept for a possible EU maritime security operation to safeguard freedom of navigation in relation to the Red Sea crisis, with an initial duration of one year from when it is launched. The operation was formally established on 8 February 2024.

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