US and 44 governments condemn Houthi rebel attacks on Red Sea vessels

Ahram Online , Wednesday 20 Dec 2023

The US and governments of 44 nations issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the Houthi interference with navigational rights and freedoms in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula, particularly the Red Sea.

Houthi supporters
File Photo: Houthi supporters chant slogans as they attend a rally marking eight years for a Saudi-led coalition, on March 26, 2023, in Sanaa, Yemen. AP


"The numerous attacks originating from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen, including the 3 December attacks against three commercial vessels in the Southern Red Sea connected to 14 nations, threaten international commerce and maritime security," the statement read.
The statement described the Houthi-led seizure of the Galaxy Leader on 19 November and the detention of its 25-member international crew, who remain unjustly detained, as appalling. 

"Such behaviour threatens the movement of food, fuel, humanitarian assistance, and other essential commodities to destinations and populations worldwide," the statement added.

The statement -- signed by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on behalf of NATO, and representatives of the US, Australia, The Bahamas, Japan, Yemen, and others -- sees no justification for these attacks, which affect many countries beyond the flags these ships sail under. 

These countries called again on the Houthis to release the Galaxy Leader crew and ship immediately and cease additional attacks on commercial vessels in the region’s vital waterways. They also urged all states to refrain from facilitating or encouraging the Houthis.

The United States announced on Monday a 10-nation coalition to quell Houthi missile and drone attacks on ships transiting the Red Sea. This coalition includes countries such as Britain, France, Bahrain, Italy, and others.

Since 7 October, Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip has devastated large swathes of the coastal territory and left at least 19,667 people dead, 70 percent of them women and children, and 52,586 people wounded, according to the Palestinian health ministry's latest figures.

The Houthis said earlier on Monday they had attacked two “Israeli-linked” vessels in the Red Sea in solidarity with the people in Gaza, as more companies halt transit through the troubled but vital waterway.

“Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, shipping companies remain in the dark over a new international navy coalition being assembled by the United States to combat attacks in the Red Sea, with many vessels continuing to avoid the area or cancelling contracts, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The sources, including shipping and maritime security officials, say few practical details are known about the initiative, launched on Tuesday by Washington.

"There are still several unknowns with the coalition. We don't know exactly how many warships will be involved, how long it will take those vessels to get to the region, or their rules of engagement and the actual protection scheme that will be put in place," said Corey Ranslem, chief executive of British maritime risk advisory and security company, Dryad Global.

"Globally, this is a fairly small area, but protecting commercial vessels in this region could be a major undertaking depending on the number of vessels and any changes to the Houthi tactics," he added.

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