Middle EastSea

France declares Strait of Hormuz military mission fully operational

France this week declared the military component to its maritime surveillance and security mission in the strategic Strait of Hormuz fully operational.

Operation Agenor, the military component of the European-led Maritime Situation Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) initiative, was declared at full operational capacity in a ceremony at a French base in the Abu Dhabi on February 25, the Ministry for the Armed Forces said on Thursday.

“The declaration of the full capability of this operation embodies the political project, led by eight European countries, to implement a maritime surveillance and security mission in the Strait of Hormuz,” the ministry said.

France announced the new EMASOH naval patrol in January with the support of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal after months of tensions in the Persian Gulf between the West and Iran that saw attacks on tankers and other conflicts in the critical oil region.

EMASOH is based in the United Arab Emirates, where France already has a permanent military presence.

French Horizon class frigate Forbin and Dutch De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate HNLMS De Ruyters are currently under operational control and tactical command of the operation, and Denmark has already pledged to deploy a relief frigate in the autumn.

France says EMASOH will “contribute to de-escalation of tensions in the region of strategic interests” and “is not aimed at any particular state, but seeks to ensure the stability of the region by defining an objective and autonomous mapping of the regional security situation and preserving freedom of navigation.”

But the new mission comes after months of tensions in the Persian Gulf that saw attacks on foreign tankers and cargo ships in the strategically important waters. The U.S. and its European allies have blamed Iran for the attacks, an allegation Tehran denies.

EMASOH is separate from a new U.S.-led maritime Operation Sentinel with similar aims. Although the United Kingdom has already signed on to the American mission based in Bahrain, most European states have stayed away for fear of undermining political efforts to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

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