European Red Sea mission has already escorted 68 ships and repelled 11 attacks

Aspides, the European operation in the Red Sea, has already escorted 68 ships and repelled 11 attacks, the EU's high representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, and the mission's operational commander, Admiral Vasileios Gryparis, announced at a press conference on Monday.

"This mission is a clear demonstration of our willingness and ability to strengthen international security, to protect public property and ship crews worldwide and to defend the interests of the European Union," said Borrell.

"This mission is a clear demonstration of our willingness and ability to strengthen international security"

Launched on 19 February, the defensive military mission aims to protect cargo ships from attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels. Participating soldiers are allowed to fire to defend merchant ships or themselves, but can't fire at land-based targets. Cargo ships must request protection, and so far the European operation has been able to respond to every request.

Since the operation began, 68 ships have been escorted and 11 attacks have been repelled. "Our ships have shot down nine drones, one unmanned aerial vehicle and four anti-ship missiles," said Gryparis. "We are expanding our cooperation with the maritime industry and their response has been very positive. I am confident that Aspides will make a great contribution to maritime security in the region."

One-year mandate

Four ships are taking part in the operation, which costs the EU 8 million euros. It has a provisional one-year mandate covering the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman, an area twice the size of the EU. For now, the mission is concentrating on the southern Red Sea, the area of greatest risk.

Aspides could be expanded with the right funding, says Griparis. "We have shown what we can do with the number of ships we have. If we can increase the resources and our presence, we can also expand the region in which we operate."


The German frigate F 221 Hessen, part of the Aspides mission © PHOTO FOCKE STRANGMANN / AFP

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