Straits of Ormuz: EU reserved for US operation Sentinel says Parly
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Thursday that the European Union had reservations about the US naval escort operation in the Strait of Hormuz and said that some countries wanted to deploy European assets in the region to ensure "dissuasive presence".
"We do not want to be in a ship escort device, but we want to ensure a deterrent presence," Parly told AFP shortly before an informal meeting with her European counterparts in Helsinki.
Ms Parly implicitly confirmed France's support for the idea of deploying a European observation mission to the region.
She stressed, however, that the number of EU countries ready to engage is "counting on the fingers of one hand".
"We will try to move to the second hand" during the Helsinki meeting, she added. "But the device will be done with the existing means which will have to make the best of it," she insisted. France permanently maintains a frigate in the region.
According to the German think tank DGPA, such a mission would require a flotilla of at least five ships, including a command ship and a helicopter carrier, and means of reconnaissance.
The meeting expanded in the afternoon with the participation of foreign ministers.
Several of them were very cautious about this European mission. "It is very difficult to say whether such a mission will take place," said Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, host of the meeting.
"We must be very careful and avoid any military escalation," said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rincevics.
"It is important that such a proposal be on the table", assured the head of the Dutch diplomacy Stef Blok.
"Anything that can contribute to de-escalation is now useful," said German Minister Heiko Maas.
"The goal is to ensure the free navigation and safety of ships in this vital region for the transportation of hydrocarbons," said Ms. Parly.
"It would be unfortunate to give the impression that we are part of the US maximum sanctions initiative," she said.
US Defense Minister Mark Esper announced Wednesday the launch of the Operation Sentinel with the participation of the United Kingdom, Australia and Bahrain.
"President Emmanuel Macron is looking for the de-escalation of tensions in the region and we are far from the desired goal," lamented Florence Parly.
The French president has invited the head of the Iranian diplomacy Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the meeting of the G7 leaders in Biarritz last weekend.
"Just because President Donald Trump has let President Macron push his initiative with Iran does not mean that the US administration has changed its position with respect to Tehran," she said.
"We have heard in Biarritz a greater willingness to dialogue with the US It is now a question of concretizing this desire and ensuring that everyone contributes, including Iran," said Heiko Maas.
The objective is to prevent the decisions taken by the Iranian authorities to free themselves from certain commitments of the nuclear agreement become irreversible. "They are not yet," told AFP a European official. "Iran has sold heavy water to China and consumed some of its surplus," he said.
An Iranian delegation will visit Paris next week and a meeting is planned soon with the European negotiators.
Tehran is pushing Europeans, who want to preserve the international agreement withdrawn by the United States, to take measures to override US sanctions and allow it to be able to export its oil, an important source of revenue for the country.