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13 Jan, 2024 11:04

EU divided over US-UK strikes on Yemen – Reuters

Major bloc member nations prefer a calmer policy in the Red Sea than the one pursued by Washington and London, the agency reported
EU divided over US-UK strikes on Yemen – Reuters

The reluctance of Italy, France, and Spain to join the US and UK attacks against Houthi militants in Yemen highlights “divisions” in the West on how to deal with the situation in the Red Sea, Reuters has reported, citing government and diplomatic sources.

Rome, Paris, and Madrid want a calmer approach to the bloc's policy in the region, the agency's sources claim.

Washington and London carried out large-scale strikes against the Houthis on Friday and Saturday in response to the group targeting shipping routes in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as an act of support for Palestinians amid the Israeli military operation in Gaza.

The US said on Friday that the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and Bahrain provided logistical and intelligence support for the aerial assault. On the same day, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, and South Korea signed a joint statement supporting the actions of the Americans and the British.

However, major US allies in Europe – Italy, France, and Spain – neither took part in the bombing nor sign the statement.

A source in the office of Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, told Reuters that the country declined to provide a signature and was thus not invited to participate in the airstrikes against the Houthi targets.

However, an Italian government source offered a different account, saying that Rome refrained from taking part in the attacks because approving such a move in the parliament would have taken too long and that overall the country preferred to pursue a “calming” policy in the Red Sea.

An unnamed French official explained to Reuters that Paris didn’t join the US and UK attacks due to concerns that by doing so, it would lose any leverage it had in talks to defuse tensions between Israel and the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah.

A diplomat familiar with Paris’ stance told the agency that France also didn’t believe that the strikes could be deemed legitimate self-defense. The US and UK attacked Yemen without authorization from the UN Security Council, with Russia calling their actions illegal and disproportionate.

Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said on Friday that Madrid wasn’t bombing the Houthis because of its “commitment to peace” in the Red Sea. “Every country has to give explanations for its actions. Spain will always be committed to peace and dialogue,” she stated.

Italy, France, and Spain also declined to participate in the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian, which had been launched by Washington last month to protect the ships from Houthi attacks. However, Euractiv reported on Friday that the EU could launch its own naval mission in the Red Sea in late February.