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The EU Initiates Naval Mission to Defend Red Sea Trade Routes

The European Union has implemented a naval mission to safeguard the Red Sea's maritime traffic from Houthi rebel threats.
The Houthi group, with Iran's support, has been disrupting this crucial passage since November, stating their actions stand in unity with Palestinians clashing with Israel in Gaza.

On Monday, the mission named Aspides was officially set in motion to ensure the safe passage of ships, with an anticipated operational readiness in a few weeks involving at least four naval vessels.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, underscored Europe's commitment to maintaining navigation freedom in the region.

The United States, with support from the United Kingdom, is also conducting naval operations and has launched counterstrikes against Houthi targets. These actions are in response to several Houthi assaults that have unsettled maritime routes, leading to shipping detours extending around the southern tip of Africa.

Recently, a US-owned, Greek-flagged cargo ship was targeted near the Gulf of Aden, a critical corridor to the Red Sea. The vessel was hit by a reported missile and sustained shrapnel damage, but no injuries were reported.

Amidst continued disruptions, Qatar's energy minister urged for a Gaza ceasefire to mitigate the Red Sea's trade impacts, which affect global oil supply. Egypt also reported a significant drop in Suez Canal revenues due to the instability.

The EU's united defense action was confirmed by the Italian foreign minister, with pivotal roles assigned to Greek and Italian commanders. France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium have all pledged ship contributions.

The mission, aimed at defending civilian ships, has an initial one-year tenure and has been prioritized by the EU due to its potential economic implications and rising inflation. Coordination with the US and other regional forces will be maintained throughout the mission.

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