France, Italy and Denmark gave initial support for a British plan for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, proposed after Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged tanker, three senior EU diplomats said on Tuesday.
According to Reuters, The cautious backing at a meeting of EU envoys in Brussels contrasts sharply with the lukewarm response shown by European allies to a similar American call first voiced at NATO in late June, when countries feared they could make U.S.-Iranian tensions worse.
“Britain’s request, rather than Washington’s, makes it easier for Europeans to rally round this,” one senior EU diplomat said. “Freedom of navigation is essential, this is separate from the U.S. campaign of maximum pressure on Iran.”
Britain tested the idea to senior EU diplomats at a meeting in Brussels, saying it would not involve the European Union, NATO or the United States directly, the diplomats said.
It was the first formal European meeting since British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt outlined the plans to parliament on Monday to protect the Strait, through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes.
Britain raised the plan after Friday’s capture of the Stena Impero tanker by Iranian commandos at sea.
British foreign ministry and defense officials have also discussed a possible mission, which would likely involve not just ships but aircraft too, directly with their Italian, Spanish, French and German counterparts.
A senior German diplomat in Berlin said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was in close contact with his British and French counterparts, Hunt and Jean-Yves Le Drian, to “contribute to the security” of the Persian Gulf including on maritime security.
The Netherlands is also assessing the British proposal, while a Spanish official said Madrid has held talks with London and was studying the idea.
Iran has rejected the proposal and says foreign powers should leave securing shipping lanes to Tehran and others in the region. Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq export most of their crude via the Strait.