Sun, 15 Dec 2019

The Netherlands says it will take part in a French-led mission to monitor shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf region starting in January.

The Dutch Defense Ministry on November 29 said the Council of Ministers has approved the deployment of a frigate for a six-month mission designed to bolster security in the strategically important area.

France has pushed for a European alternative in the Strait of Hormuz after it ruled out joining a U.S.-led coalition protecting oil tankers and cargo ships from any potential threats from Iran.

The Awareness Strait of Hormuz initiative (EMASOH) focuses on the western part of the Gulf of Oman, the eastern part of the Arabian Gulf, and the Strait of Hormuz.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly last week said a French naval base in Abu Dhabi would be the main hub for the European mission, although officials have said the effort will not be a European Union initiative.

The U.S.-led coalition has opened a separate command center in Bahrain.

Washington and its Middle Eastern allies blamed Iran for explosions that damaged as many as four ships outside the Strait of Hormuz in May, and then accused Tehran of using mines to attack two oil tankers in June.

Iranian forces then shot down a U.S. drone that they said was in Iranian airspace, saying it sent 'a clear message' to Washington. U.S. officials confirmed the drone's downing but called it an 'unprovoked attack' in international airspace over the strait.

Iran has since seized several international oil tankers in actions seemingly designed to assert Tehran's right to police traffic in the strait, which is a conduit for huge amounts of the region's oil exports.

U.S. President Donald Trump last year withdrew from a nuclear accord with Tehran and reimposed sanctions that target its oil and financial industries.

France, Germany, and Britain also signed the accord -- along with Russia and China -- and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the United States to remain in the deal. The European nations have sought to keep a distance from Washington's so-called "maximum pressure" policy against Iran while still pressing efforts to block Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Trump wants to force Iran to renegotiate the 2015 accord, arguing that the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and agree curbs to its ballistic-missile program.

Iran has refused, insisting that its nuclear program was strictly for civilian energy purposes.

With reporting by dpa and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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