US asks Europe to secure Strait of Hormuz, combat Iran aggression

The US has formally asked Germany to join France and the UK in a mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. The UK sent its Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region on July 29. (AFP photo/Crown copyright 2019)
Updated 30 July 2019

US asks Europe to secure Strait of Hormuz, combat Iran aggression

  • The comments confirmed by embassy spokesman
  • The UK sent its Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region on July 29

BERLIN: The US has formally asked Germany to join France and Britain in a mission to secure the Strait of Hormuz and to combat Iranian aggression, the US Embassy in Berlin said on Tuesday.

At a time of heightened tension between the United States and Iran, Washington has proposed stepping up efforts to safeguard the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes.

“We’ve formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Straits of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression. Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected... Our question is, protected by whom,” said an Embassy spokeswoman.

The comments, initially reported by Germany's DPA news agency, were confirmed by an Embassy spokesman.

Ties between Iran and the United States have deteriorated since Washington pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz have further soured relations.

There is considerable opposition among Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition, to getting involved in a US-led mission.

“The German government has already rejected participation in the US military mission, Operation Sentinel, to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Nils Schmid, a foreign affairs spokesman for the SPD parliamentary party.

“It should stay like that. Otherwise, there is a risk of being pulled into a war against Iran on the side of the United States,” he added in an interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung.


Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

Updated 8 min 7 sec ago

Lebanon repatriates nationals in rare flights despite virus

  • Health personnel in protective gear took the temperature of disembarking passengers
  • Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Sunday started repatriating nationals stranded abroad in its first flight in weeks since it closed its international airport to stem the novel coronavirus.
The first of four planes touched down at the Beirut international airport late Sunday morning bringing in 78 passengers from Riyadh, local television reported.
It showed health personnel in protective gear taking the temperature of disembarking passengers.
The Mediterranean country announced a lockdown and closed its airport on March 18 as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected 527 people and killed 18 nationwide.
An AFP photographer saw a dozen buses outside the airport waiting to transport the passengers.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab had arrived earlier amid heavy deployment of the Lebanese army, he said.
Authorities said more than 20,000 had signed up to be repatriated in total this week and at the end of the month.
Lebanese carrier Middle East Airlines has said flights would also land in Beirut on Sunday from Abu Dhabi, Lagos and Abidjan.
It has also announced return trips to Paris, Madrid and Kinshasa on Tuesday.
Lebanese returning home must either test negative for the virus no longer than three days before their return, or be tested immediately upon arrival, according to government guidelines.
They must pay for their own ticket and their families are not allowed to meet them at the airport.
The government has said priority will be given to those with critical health conditions such as diabetes or cancer, those aged over 60 and under 18, and families.
But critics have complained of steep ticket fares, while a financial crisis has severely restricted transactions from Lebanese bank accounts.
Coronavirus is the latest crisis to hit Lebanon, which is already reeling under a crumbling economy.
Due to an acute liquidity crisis, banks have since September increasingly been restricting access to dollars and have halted money transfers abroad.
On Monday, however, the banking association agreed to allow dollar transfers to Lebanese students outside the country to help them face the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry said.
Diab on Sunday told reporters the government was studying the possibility of supporting returning Lebanese students with a ticket.
Lebanese expatriates and activists have clamoured online for MEA to lower the price of its tickets and help those who can’t afford it.
The airline on Friday claimed tickets were more expensive — $650 for an economy class seat from Riyadh and $1,800 for a cheaper fare from Abidjan for example — because planes would be empty on the way out to evacuations.