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Sanchez: Spain reluctant to join EU anti-piracy Red Sea task force

December 28, 2023 at 11:00 am

Spanish Prime minister Pedro Sanchez speaks during the press conference at the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona, Spain on December 21, 2023 [Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency]

Spain is not in favour of using the European Union (EU)’s anti-piracy naval force, known as Operation Atalanta, to protect Israel-bound merchant ships from Yemen’s Houthi militia in the Red Sea, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez shared on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The Spanish premier told reporters that his country does not oppose the creation of a different mission in the Red Sea, while Operation Atalanta has been fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean since 2008.

On Sunday, the Spanish Interior Ministry confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Madrid “will not participate” in such a mission, without explaining the reason.

Madrid’s refusal came despite a phone call on Friday between US President Joe Biden and Sanchez, which specifically focused on “condemning the current attacks launched by the Houthis against commercial ships in the Red Sea,” according to a White House statement.

The Deputy Foreign Minister of the Houthi government Hussein Al-Ezzi commented on the Spanish position on X, formerly Twitter: “We highly appreciate Spain’s refusal to be drawn into the American and British lies regarding the issue of maritime navigation.”

Sanchez explained that Operation Atalanta, which is currently led by Spain and has only one ship, a Spanish frigate, does not have the necessary “specifications” to patrol the Red Sea to prevent Houthi attacks.

“The situation is completely different, and the danger is different,” Sanchez said, stressing that the two missions “have no connection at all.”

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