MADRID: Spain opposes adding the European Union’s anti-piracy navy Atalanta to the US-led coalition to protect Red Sea shipping from attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Wednesday (12 (Mon. 27) stated.
But Mr Sanchez said at his annual year-end press conference that the government was “ambitious and positive” about the creation of a separate EU force to tackle the issue.
The Iran-backed Houthis have attacked ships in the Red Sea several times, claiming they are supporting Palestinians in the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza.
The Atalanta, founded in 2008 and currently the only Spanish Navy ship operating in the Indian Ocean, does not have the “characteristics” needed to patrol the Red Sea to ward off Houthi attacks. Sanchez said.
“The situation is completely different and the risks are different,” the Socialist Prime Minister added in his first public comments on the issue.
Spain took over command of the European Union’s maritime missions from Britain in 2019 as London prepared to leave the bloc.
Atalanta’s operational headquarters were also relocated to Rota Naval Base in southern Spain.
The Pentagon announced last week that 20 countries had joined a Washington-led coalition to protect the vital Red Sea shipping lane.
The Spanish government has been ambivalent, with a Defense Ministry spokesperson telling AFP on Sunday that Spain “will not participate.”
No reason was given, but Spanish media reported on Sunday that the decision not to participate was due to domestic politics.
Sanchez’s Socialist Party governs in a minority coalition with Sumal, a far-left party that is generally opposed to U.S. foreign policy.