Australia joins EU and NATO in condemning Houthi rebel attacks in Red Sea

Australia joins EU and NATO in condemning Houthi rebel attacks in Red Sea
  • PublishedDecember 20, 2023

Both oil and European natural gas prices rose partly over market nerves about attacks by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who took responsibility for two new attacks on Monday.

It is the latest targeting of container ships and oil tankers passing through a narrow waterway that separates Yemen from East Africa and leads north to the Red Sea and Suez Canal, through which an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s trade passes.

The statement condemning the attacks is undersigned by the EU, NATO and other countries including Japan, Singapore and New Zealand. 

“The numerous attacks originating from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen, including the December 3 attacks against three commercial vessels in the Southern Red Sea connected to 14 nations, threaten international commerce and maritime security,” the statement read. 

“Such behavior also threatens the movement of food, fuel, humanitarian assistance, and other essential commodities to destinations and populations all over the world.”

The statement went on to include that there was no justification for the attacks and called for the immediate release of the Israeli-owned ship Galaxy Leader and its crew after Houthis hijacked the ship last month.

Overnight Australia’s chief of defence Angus Campbell took part in a virtual meeting organised by the US to discuss efforts to deter the attacks.

In recent days the United States has requested dozens of nations who make up the Combined Maritime Forces to help respond to Iranian-backed Houthi rebels attacking civilian ships through the crucial sea lane.

The Australian government is continuing to consider the US request for military assistance. 

Australia’s naval fleet commander said the service was well prepared to deploy a warship to the Middle East if the federal government agreed to join the international mission to protect merchant vessels in the region. 

Experts have warned the Royal Australian Navy only has a limited number of available warships, including the aging Anzac-class frigates that are equipped with just eight vertical launch missile cells, which could be too vulnerable in a hostile shooting environment.

The navy has three newer Air Warfare Destroyers that are equipped with 48 vertical launch systems, but defence insiders warn deploying one of the Hobart-class warships to the Middle East would probably not be possible until well into next year.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government would examine whether further defence personnel should be deployed, but its first priority was closer to home.

“The US understands the best way for Australia to support this is through diplomatic support and our resources have been prioritised in our region, the Indo-Pacific,” Mr Albanese said.

The federal opposition has criticised the government for not accepting the US request to send a warship to the Red Sea, and says inaction has made Australia a less reliable partner.

In a joint statement the shadow treasurer and shadow foreign affairs and defence ministers said Mr Albanese needed to explain why Australia would not support an international effort to secure the trade route.

“Failing to contribute to securing this trade route means Australians will pay the price for the prime minister’s lack of leadership, with over 12 per cent of the world’s trade coming through the Suez Canal,” the opposition frontbenchers said.

“This route requires twice the amount of fuel, adding tens of millions in extra costs to the operators, having a flow-on effect to cargo owners and inevitably consumers, causing further supply chain shocks.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin yesterday announced the creation of a multinational operation to safeguard commerce after the attacks began to scare off some of the world’s top shipping companies and oil giants.

BP said on Monday that it had “decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea”, including shipments of oil, liquid natural gas and other energy supplies.

Describing it as a “precautionary pause”, the London-based oil and gas corporation said the decision faced ongoing review but crew safety was the priority.

Posted 5h ago5 hours ago, updated 19m ago


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