Greece agrees to lead European Union naval mission in the Red Sea

Athens: A boat carrying tourists off the coast of Greece was engulfed in flames, forcing all passengers and crew to evacuate. Flames can be seen overtaking the vessel —thankfully, everyone was able to safely return to land. The incident happened on June 29.

Greece has formally agreed to lead a European Union maritime security operation in the Red Sea to safeguard commercial shipping from Houthi militant attacks in Yemen.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ security committee has ordered the deployment of a Greek frigate in the Aspides operation.

Greece, a commercial shipping hub, has experienced significant impacts from Houthi attacks.

Greece Monday formally agreed to participate in and lead a European Union maritime security operation in the Red Sea, to protect commercial shipping from attacks by Houthi militants in Yemen.

A security committee headed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis ordered the participation of a Greek frigate in the Aspides operation – named from the Greek word for “shield” – that was launched last week.

The mission will be run from a military base in Larissa in central Greece under the command of Greek navy Cdre. Vasilios Griparis.

Greece, a major commercial shipping power, has been directly affected by the Houthi attacks. The port of Piraeus, near Athens, reported a 12.7% drop in activity at its container terminal in January, on an annual basis.

“Keeping the lines of maritime trade open is in the absolute interest of the European Union and is an existential necessity for Greece,” Defense Minister Nikos Dendias told a parliamentary committee hearing last week.

He described the Aspides mission as defensive, adding that Greece would not take part in U.S.-led attacks against Houthi military targets in Yemen.

The Iranian-backed Houthis say their attacks on commercial ships with drones and missiles are a response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza against Hamas which began in October.

“We do not take a position on the Houthi issue,” Dendias said. “But we do challenge the right of anyone to fire at our ships, at European ships, and at ships that sail the region and come to our ports.”