Estonia participating in new EU military operation in Red Sea region

  • 2024-03-28
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - On Thursday, the government decided that Estonia is to participate with one service member in the European Union's military operation EUNAVFOR ASPIDES addressing the crisis in the Red Sea, with the operation initially planned for one year, with the possibility of extension if necessary.

"Despite the war in Europe, we must be ready to contribute with our allies to other crisis areas in the world, as this indirectly affects our security here in Europe. Attacks in the Red Sea region also impact the global economy and trade," Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said.

Recent months have seen attacks by Houthi rebels against cargo and military ships in the Red Sea, worsening the security situation across the region. Launched by the European Union in February, the military operation EUNAVFOR ASPIDES aims to restore freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and ensure the safety of vessels in the region, protecting ships from attacks and escorting them throughout the operation area. The operation is defensive in nature, with no military strikes planned against land targets.

The operation's activities are coordinated with the US-led coalition Prosperity Guardian operating in the region. Greece is the lead country for the EU operation, with France, Germany, and Italy contributing with vessels. Additionally, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Spain, Czech Republic, Romania, Portugal, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Austria, Malta, and Cyprus have announced their participation. An Estonian Navy service member will begin service on an Italian Navy vessel at the earliest opportunity, utilizing the current mandate from the Riigikogu.

The operation area includes the Bab-el-Mandeb and Hormuz straits, the Red Sea and Arabian Sea, and the international waters of Aden, Oman, and the Arabian Gulf, where Houthi rebels have launched numerous attacks, especially against cargo ships, since October 2023. Such attacks endanger the lives of seafarers, restrict freedom of navigation, and violate the right of transit passage through straits used for international navigation as established in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Houthi attacks have a detrimental impact on commercial shipping and the economies of the European Union and the countries in the Red Sea region.