Italy is working with France and Germany to finalise a proposal for a European mission to protect Red Sea shipping from attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Antonio Tajani said Wednesday.
“We are working so that alongside the Atalanta operation there might be a European military mission in the Red Sea,” said Tajani at a press conference on Italy’s G7 duty presidency in Rome.
“The hypothesis is to expand the the existing mission to protect trade in (the Strait of) Hormuz,” he added, referring to the AGENOR operation in the Gulf.
Operation Atalanta is a EU naval mission against Somali pirates.
Tajani said the proposal, which also envisages the possible participation of non-EU countries, will be discussed by EU foreign ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday.
“With France and Germany we are formalising a proposal to present to the other EU partners, but I am optimistic,” continued the minister, adding that he hoped the political decision would be taken at the Monday meeting so that the mission “can be operational as soon as possible”.
“Ships in the Red Sea do not have rules of engagement to attack but they have the right to defend and protect merchant ships in the event of attack, including through the use of weapons,” said Tajani, adding that the government is ready to illustrate its action in relation to the security situation in the Red Sea to parliament.
On Italy’s seventh G7 presidency the foreign minister said it wants “to strengthen (the group) as an instrument of stability, in the face of two wars and a crisis in the Red Sea”.
“Our goal is to strengthen cohesion and stability,” he added, insisting that Italian foreign policy aims to make the country a global protagonist and promote peace.
“Our polar stars are the United States and the EU,” said Tajani.
“And we are working on growth: we are a great exporting power, we are strengthening our commitment to growth.
I am thinking of Vietnam, a market in which Italy can play a leading role,” he added.
Tajani also said “Italy, together with the EU, will continue to support Ukraine in (defending) its right to exist”.
“We want a peace that implies not that there is a winner and a loser, but that is in accordance with international law.