(Bloomberg) -- The European Union agreed to move ahead with plans to establish a new naval operation in the Red Sea to protect commercial shipping as the US conducted new airstrikes against Houthi missile sites in Yemen.
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Senior EU diplomats moved forward with the plans but details still have to be worked out, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The bloc could sign off on the plans as soon as Jan. 22 at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, Bloomberg reported last week.
As part of the mission, the EU could send at least three destroyers or frigates with multi-mission capabilities to the Red Sea, according to a proposal by the bloc’s foreign policy arm seen by Bloomberg. The EU operation would also be authorized to share secret maritime information with the US-led mission, Prosperity Guardian.
Once approved, the EU operation could launch as soon as late February, according to the proposal. The agreement was reported earlier by Euractiv.
The plans come as the West seeks to deter further attacks on the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels while averting a wider Mideast conflict in a region already on edge due to the Israel-Hamas war. Houthi rebels vowed to target US and UK commercial vessels over the weekend after the allies launched large-scale airstrikes against the group.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, addressing the earlier strikes, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday “we are not looking for regional conflict.”
He added, “we reserve the right to take further action” because the Houthis can’t be permitted to “basically hijack” world trade.
Since Friday, the US Navy has advised vessels to stay away from the southern Red Sea, effectively closing off the Suez Canal for those who follow the guidance.
(Updates with US national security advisor in the sixth paragraph. A previous version corrected the timing of the US strikes.)
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