A European-led maritime mission to monitor the troubled waters of the Persian Gulf will be stationed at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Sunday.
“This morning, we formalized that the command post will be based in UAE [United Arab Emirates] territory,” Parly told reporters on a visit to the base.
The command center will be run by around 10 to 15 staff members who will “contribute to making maritime navigation in the Gulf as safe as possible,” she added.
France is the main proponent of the plan to build a European-led maritime force to ensure safe passage for oil tankers and other ships in the Strait of Hormuz following attacks on vessels earlier this year that Washington blamed on Iran.
Separate US mission
The European move follows a similar mission, launched earlier this month by Washington and which is based in Bahrain.
Most European governments, including Germany, have declined to take part in the US-led coalition, fearful of undermining their efforts to save a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran — which was badly weakened by Washington’s withdrawal last year.
Parly didn’t give specifics on which countries would take part in the European mission, which will be operational soon. But she said that France “will coordinate with the Americans” to ensure safe navigation in an already tense area.
Germany’s potential role in an EU mission in the Gulf has not been finalized. The country’s defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, however, has called on Germany to take on a larger role in international security operations.
Iran denied attacks
Tehran has denied being behind the May attacks on tankers and other vessels in major global shipping lanes off the UAE coast. The assaults ratcheted up tensions among the United States, Iran and Arab Gulf states.
Iran, however, admitted to shooting down a US drone in June for allegedly flying over its territorial waters. Washington insisted the aircraft was in international airspace.
France and the UAE share strong ties, which led to the opening in 2009 of the first French military based outside Africa in the UAE, with some 700 personnel stationed permanently.
mm/sms (AFP, Reuters)
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