Saeima greenlights Latvia's participation in maritime security operation in Red Sea

  • 2024-05-02
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The Saeima on Thursday approved Latvia's participation in a maritime security operation in Red Sea.

The government approved Latvia's participation in this operation already earlier. 

In response to the crisis in the Red Sea, the Defense Ministry had asked the government and the Saeima decide on Latvia's participation in the European Union (EU) maritime security operation.

According to the Defense Ministry, maritime safety in the Red Sea has deteriorated rapidly since the end of 2023. In response to the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, Houthi militants have launched attacks against naval vessels passing through the Red Sea region. The Houthis claimed that the attacks were in response to Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip and that the vessels targeted were linked to Israel and its supplies. It is now clear that ships are regularly attacked regardless of their nationality, content and destination.

In order to counter Houthi attacks and restore safe shipping, the US launched in December 2023 Operation Prosperity Guardian, a coalition operation in which the US and UK conduct counter attacks on the Yemeni Houthis. These counter-attacks have not, however, reduced the intensity of Houthi attacks and there are currently no signs of a de-escalation of the conflict in the region.

The Red Sea region is a very important sea route. It connects the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean. Around 17,000 ships, whose cargo accounts for 12 to 15 percent of global trade, use this sea route every year. For Europe, this is a very important trade and supply route, according to the Defense Ministry/.

In response to the crisis in the Red Sea, the European Council decided on February 8 to set up a new maritime security operation, Eunavfor Aspides, aimed at escorting international ships in the area of operation, situational awareness and surveillance of the area of operation, and protection of ships against various attacks in accordance with international law.

The operation has an initial deadline of February 19, 2025. Operational discussions suggest that this will be extended and the EU will continue the operation until safe navigation in the Red Sea region is assured.

Latvia has the opportunity to contribute to the operation by deploying a National Armed Forces (NAF) naval officer or instructor to one of the vacant positions in the operational headquarters, or by filling a vacant position on one of the allied ships in the area of operations. The potential participation of an NAF representative in the operation would be planned from summer 2024, for the second rotation of the operation's personnel.

Latvia's participation in the operation would provide an opportunity for the NAF representative to gain operational experience in an EU maritime security operation, as well as contribute to the overall competence and visibility of the Latvian Navy. It is equally important for Latvia to demonstrate unity with the other European Union countries by engaging in ensuring the security of an important European shipping lane, the Defense Ministry said.

According to the law, the participation of NAF soldiers in an international operation is subject to a decision of the Saeima.