Belgium has 'duty' to participate in European Red Sea mission, says Foreign minister

On Thursday, Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib said Belgium had a "duty to take part in an operation at European level" to secure trade in the Red Sea. Not all government parties agree with her.

European member states are currently discussing the possibility of a joint mission against Yemen's Houthi rebels. The rebels have been attacking merchant ships in the Red Sea for weeks, disrupting global trade.

Belgium "has a duty to take part in an operation at European level to show our solidarity and commitment to our allies," Lahbib told the Chamber of Representatives. She added that Belgium had no intention of bombing Yemen itself, as the US and UK have done in recent days.

Divided government

The left-wing parties in the government are not keen on joining a military operation in the Red Sea. They want Belgium to join the South African case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague to determine whether or not Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. But the liberal faction, of which Lahbib is a member, refuses to do so.

"Participating in [South Africa's] case is not an option," Lahbib said, because other European member states do not support it. "How do you explain that we are ready to protect boats while the international community does nothing to protect people?" replied socialist MP Ben Achour.

The government will discuss the issue on Friday. "There should be a discussion within the government tomorrow to define an overall position both on strengthening our role in the Red Sea and on initiatives to end the violence around Gaza," said Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder. "In any case, we are in favour of de-escalation in the region."



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