Australia and Spain reject US request to join a Red Sea ‘Prosperity Guardian’ naval operation

10:13 24.12.2023 •

Photo: en.mercopress

Canberra will instead send six additional ADF personnel. US bringing together allies to protect against Houthi strikes, Bloomberg informs.

Australia has rejected a US request for a warship to help protect international shipping lanes in the Red Sea, with Defense Minister Richard Marles saying the nation’s strategic focus had to remain on the Indo-Pacific.

Marles, who is also deputy prime minister, told Sky News on Thursday that Australia wouldn’t be sending a “ship or a plane” to the Middle East, but would instead almost triple its troop contribution to the US-led maritime force.

“We need to be really clear around our strategic focus and our strategic focus is our region,” Marles said.

The Australian Government continues to work with the United States and other partners in support of the international rules-based order in the Middle East and surrounding region. — Richard Marles (@RichardMarlesMP) December 21, 2023

The US this week announced Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international maritime task force intended to protect trading vessels sailing through the Red Sea from attacks by Houthi militants based in Yemen. Participating countries include the US, UK, France and Canada.

In a post to social media site X on Thursday, Marles said Australia would contribute an additional six Australian Defence Force personnel.

The US is Australia’s closest defense partner, a relationship even further strengthened in 2021 by the Aukus security agreement that will deliver Canberra a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

Spain’s Defense Ministry denied Washington’s claims that it will participate in a multinational force to patrol the Red Sea.

In a statement released to Spanish media outlets including the ABC and La Vanguardia, the ministry said Spain cannot make the decision unilaterally, and is subject to decisions made by the EU and NATO.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Spain would be among the countries joining the 10-nation security initiative to protect trade in the Red Sea from Houthi attacks.

The Yemeni rebel group has ramped up attacks in recent days, targeting ships alleged to have links with Israel.

Energy company BP announced it was suspending shipping in the region, following in the steps of big shipping firms such as Evergreen and Maersk, which have suspended shipping operations off the coast of Yemen. The companies are instead opting to divert the routes.

The interruption of “the critical waterway... threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law,” according to the US defense secretary.

He announced launching Operation Prosperity Guardian to bolster the security of shipping in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

According to the US announcement, the UK, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain are taking part.

However, if Spain’s justification for why it cannot participate is true, countries such Italy, Netherlands and France would also have to answer to the EU and NATO before committing.


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