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4th Mar 2024

Houthi attacks on cargo ships risk regional conflict, says EU

  • November takeover of the Galaxy Leader cargo ship by Houthi fighters (Photo: Houthis)
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Attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis risks destabilising the region, says the European Union.

"This is an unacceptable violation of international law, this presents threats to maritime security and to security and peace in the region as well," said Peter Stano, EU foreign policy spokesperson.

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Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (19 December), Stano also said the attacks require an international response.

He also said the European Union is currently discussing options and how best to "adapt our response to this unacceptable behaviour by Houthis."

The escalation is part of a wider response by Yemen's pro-Palestinian Houthis to the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

The militants had vowed to continue the attacks "until the Israeli aggression stops", sparking fears of a greater regional conflict that will draw more bloodshed.

On Monday, the US announced a 10-nation coalition to curtail Houthi missile and drone attacks against the cargo vessels.

EU countries France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain figure among the coalition, codenamed Operation Prosperity Guardian.

But the Houthis appear unfazed.

Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a senior Houthi official, said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the US-backed coalition would make no difference.

"[It] will not prevent us from continuing our military operations until the crimes of genocide in Gaza are stopped," he said on Tuesday.

He also warned that the US military move would expand the scope of the conflict.

The Red Sea is linked to the Mediterranean by the Suez Canal. Some 12 percent of the world shipping traffic transits through the canal.

But the attacks means some cargo vessels are now opting for the much longer east-west route. The 36-day trip bends around the southern tip of Africa, possibly driving up spot crude prices.

Danish shipping giant Maersk on Tuesday announced it would pause all vessels bound for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

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