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How Italy is moving on the Red Sea front

As tensions escalate between the Houthi rebels and the Western forces patrolling the crucial waterway, Rome has dispatched a second frigate to the area and is working with other EU capitals to create a stability-fostering mission. This requires parliamentary approval, recalled ministers Tajani and Crosetto

Italy deploys another ship to the Red Sea. The Federico Martinengo FREMM frigate has joined the ITS Virginio Fasan in supporting Operation Atalanta, the European Union’s anti-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa. The area is undergoing a tension escalation, as the United States and allied forces launched airstrikes on Yemen’s Houthi targets in response to their continued attacks on commercial vessels attempting to pass across the Red Sea.

The bureaucratic loops. Washington has been keeping Rome in the loop, noted Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani on Friday, warning it “hours in advance” of the course of action. He then remarked that Italian forces cannot directly participate in the military effort because the Constitution dictates that Parliament approves all new operations.

  • “A new international mission needs parliamentary approval and separate funding,” explained Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, highlighting that neither he nor the government could autonomously kick off a new effort. Such a decision “must pass through the Council of Ministers, arrive in Parliament and [be] voted on by the Houses […] There are steps that the Constitution provides for.”

Watch out for escalations. Reiterating that the crisis is “a huge problem” and the “consequence of other outbreaks,” Minister Crosetto noted that Italy intends to “achieve safe passage in the Red Sea” while avoiding opening up a “third front” in the war between Israel and Hamas (with the second front being Hezbollah in Lebanon).

The (European) road ahead. Rome is “committed to guaranteeing freedom of navigation” in the area and will request that the scope of Operation Atalanta be widened or a new European mission be launched to guarantee the free movement of goods, said Minister Tajani.

  • Politico indicated that the European Union intends to send at least three warships to safeguard vessels in the Red Sea – by creating a new operation that would act in a wider area, from the Red Sea to the Gulf, and which could be launched as soon as the end of February.

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