BERLIN, Germany - Whether Euope will join the U.S. coalition to defend the Strait of Hormuz will come up for discussion later this month.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday she believed the idea of Europe establishing a naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz would be a topic at informal meetings of European foreign and defence ministers the be held in the Finnish capital Helsinki later in August.
"I think the question of a European mission will be discussed there again because this discussion has not yet taken place everywhere and so I believe that the Finnish presidency will play a coordinating role on that," the chancellor told a news conference which followed her meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
Germany previous ruled out joining the coalition direct, saying it would be more amenable to being a part of a European Union initiative.
The UK has formally agreed to take part in what it described as a maritime security mission in the Gulf to protect merchant vessels traveling through the Strait of Hormuz. Australia says it is considering a request from th U.S.
Events in the Gulf over the last 4 months, including attacks on four tankers off the coast of the UAE and the seizure of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, have seen the threat to commercial shipping rise.
The Strait of Hormuz is the busiest narrow shipping passage in the world and a vital transit zone with an estimated 20% of the world's oil passing through it every year.
The UK on 5 August issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to freedom of navigation and safe passage through the Gulf, saying it would play a leading role in a new international maritime security mission. The mission will see the Royal Navy working alongside the U.S. navy to assure the security of merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
"Following constructive discussions at an international conference in Bahrain last week, the UK has agreed to join an international mission which will largely draw on assets already in the region to increase inter-state maritime cooperation. The UK has also offered to lead one of the mission's Maritime Task Groups," the statement said.
"While exact operational details are being determined, the mission is intended to improve coordination between different countries' militaries and commercial shipping. Both the UK and U.S. are committed to working with allies and partners to encourage others to join and broaden the response to this truly international problem," the statement added.
Meantime Iran has rejected the need for an international coalition in the Gulf.
"All propaganda about a new coalition in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman are impractical and superficial. Without a doubt, if a part of these propagandas are put into action, they will not be beneficial for the security of the region," President Hassan Rouhani said at a meeting of cabinet on Wednesday.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to ensure the security of the historical region alongside its littoral states, as it has done so throughout the history."
"Regional states can ensure the security of the region with unity, integrity and dialogue," added.
(Photo credit: Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Miller | U.S. Navy).