RIYADH: The EU welcomed the formation of the Red Sea Council, aimed at securing the waterways of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are two of the world’s busiest shipping routes connecting Europe to Asia and the Middle East.
The council, which includes Egypt, Jordan, Eritrea, Yemen, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia, will increase cooperation to tackle piracy, smuggling and other threats in key international shipping routes.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Alexander Rondos, EU special representative for the Horn of Africa, said: “We in Europe take a very close interest in this.
First of all, we welcome the initiative taken by Saudi Arabia to lead the process that has resulted in the creation of the Red Sea Council.
“We think this is a very important initiative, we want to support in every possible way. We believe that it is in our collective interest that something like this takes shape and is able to create a framework around which the issue of the security of navigation or the security of all the coastlines is properly assured.”
Rondos added: “It’s in the greater global interest. We welcome that the countries are on the shores of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden have taken this initiative. We welcome Saudi action in helping promote this. We encourage everyone to move as expeditiously as they can, so that we can have something that the entire international community can turn to lean on at a time when there have been some threats to security.”
On Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki’s meeting with King Salman, he said: “Eritrea has a thousand kilometers of shoreline on the Red Sea, it is essential to the overall security of the Red Sea and we hope and trust that the meeting helped to consolidate that collective sense of security around the region. This is all designed in the long run to be able to create a wider zone of stability in which Eritrea has a major role and responsibility in achieving that security.”
During the talks on Monday, King Salman and Afwerki reviewed developments in the Horn of Africa, discussed the importance of the Council of Arab and African States bordering the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and enhancing opportunities for cooperation.
Rondos said the EU had “grave concerns” about threats from Houthi rebels and the smuggling of Iranian weapons to them.
“Speaking on behalf of the EU, we obviously deplore any attempts to destabilize the area around the Red Sea.
“We have grave concerns about parties beyond this area trying to use proxies to destabilize the region.”
He added: “Our fundamental objective is that those countries closest to the Red Sea should be able to form their own council and work with the rest of the international community.”
Rondos said that the purpose of his visit to Riyadh “was to continue links that we have with the Kingdom. We are interested in pursuing a common strategy for stability in the whole region around Saudi Arabia and the Horn of Africa.
“I met Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir and the main agenda was what can we all do to pursue a policy that gives stability and security around the Red Sea to ensure freedom of navigation, and discussed how we can achieve stability in the long term in the Horn of Africa.”
Rondos also met Minister of State for African Affairs Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Qattan to discuss security and stability in the region.
The EU representative described the role of Saudi Arabia in the region as “absolutely essential.”
He added that “the Kingdom is a major contributor to stability, therefore we welcome its willingness to bring people together in the Horn of Africa where often there have been a lot of divisions. We need to create much more reconciliation and this plays a very important role.”