The French foreign ministry said Tuesday that eight European Union nations had given their “political support” for a new naval patrol to help avoid potential conflicts in the Strait of Hormuz, the strategically critical entry to the Gulf.
Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal backed the new force, whose mission headquarters will be based in Abu Dhabi.
A Dutch frigate is expected to launch the patrol rotations by the end of February, a French army official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The move comes amid escalating tensions in the region, especially between Iran and the United States, that have sparked attacks on tankers and other conflicts in a crucial zone for oil shipping.
Iran is also backing Huthi rebels in Yemen who are locked in a years-long battle with a coalition force led by Saudi Arabia, which has led to ship seizures by Huthi fighters.
“For months this situation has jeopardised freedom of navigation and the security of both European and foreign ships and crews,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Hormuz strait is considered especially vulnerable since it is only 50 kilometres (31 miles) wide and relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 60 metres (200 feet).
The EU initiative also underscores the bloc´s goal of acting separately from the US, which launched its own operation alongside allies last November to protect shipping in Gulf waters.—AFP