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EU decides on military deployment in the Red Sea

The EU foreign ministers have finally approved the military operation “Aspides” in the Red Sea. European warships are supposed to protect merchant ships there from Houthi rebels. Germany also wants to participate.

The foreign ministers of the EU states have decided to start a new military operation to secure merchant shipping in the Middle East. This was confirmed by several EU diplomats to the dpa news agency in Brussels. The plan for Operation Aspides involves sending European warships to the Red Sea and neighboring sea areas. These are then intended to protect merchant ships there from attacks by the militant Islamist Houthis from Yemen. The militia wants to force an end to the Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip by shelling ships, which followed the massacre by the terrorist militia Hamas in Israel.

Germany wants to take part in the operation with the frigate “Hessen”. The warship with around 240 soldiers on board was sent from Wilhelmshaven to the Mediterranean on February 8th. The “Hessen” was last in a port on the Greek island of Crete. The mandate for the operation is to be decided by the Bundestag this Friday.

The 143 meter long frigate is equipped with anti-aircraft missiles and was specially designed for escort and maritime control. According to the Bundeswehr, the ship can use its special radar to monitor airspace the size of the entire North Sea. The weapon systems are capable of engaging targets at a distance of up to 160 kilometers. Germany also wants to provide staff for the operation's headquarters in Larisa, Greece, as well as helicopters.

Baerbock: “The entire global economy was hit”

The EU's hope is that shipping companies will again send their merchant ships through the Red Sea without hesitation. Recently, many people had avoided the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe. Because an alternative route around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa is much longer, this now has significant implications for companies.

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said of the decision: “We have seen that the entire global economy is being hit by the Houthis' attacks on civilian shipping.” It is not just European ships that are repeatedly endangered by Houthi missiles in the Red Sea, but also all international shipping. “That is why it is important for us that we as the European Union make a contribution to protecting civilian shipping in the Red Sea,” said the Green politician.

Dangerous use

Since the Houthis have not shied away from attacks on warships in the past, Operation “Aspides” is considered comparatively risky. Marine Inspector Jan Christian Kaack said of the departure of the frigate “Hessen”: “This is the most serious deployment of a German naval unit in many decades.” At the same time, the risks are considered controllable. “There is no unit in the German Navy that is better prepared, better trained and better equipped for this,” says Kaack.

Kathrin Schmid, ARD Brussels, tagesschau, February 19, 2024 12:15 p.m

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