Eight EU nations back naval force to patrol Strait of Hormuz

AFP , Monday 20 Jan 2020

The French foreign ministry said Monday that eight European Union nations had given their 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, though the ministry did not say how many ships would be involved, or when they would begin operations.

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.

"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 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.

France and its European allies are hoping to distance themselves from US President Donald Trump in order to save the landmark 2015 deal curtailing Tehran's nuclear programme.

Trump abandoned the accord in 2018 and imposed economic sanctions against Iran, rekindling a smouldering conflict that led to strikes on cargo ships as well as Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

France, Denmark, Greece and the Netherlands have already confirmed they will contribute to the patrols, which will be based in the United Arab Emirates, and "new commitments" are expected in the coming days, the ministry said.

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