EU values GCC expertise in push for Israel-Gaza peace, says envoy to Gulf

Luigi Di Maio tells The National the EU is keen to work alongside Gulf partners to de-escalate regional tensions

EU's envoy for Gulf stresses Red Sea navigation's role in regional prosperity

EU's envoy for Gulf stresses Red Sea navigation's role in regional prosperity
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

Gulf states have the expertise that could help end the war in Gaza and pave the way for a two-state solution, the EU’s representative to the Gulf Region, Luigi Di Maio, told The National on Thursday.

“The international community knows very well that without the countries of the GCC, it's very difficult to grasp the regional dynamics and understand how to solve the issue of the Gaza conflict,” Mr Di Maio said during a visit to Dubai.

The war in Gaza has refocused international attention on the need for a long-term solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with western diplomats travelling to the region to discuss postwar scenarios. The two-state solution has long been held up as an answer and envisages the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

“At the world level, everyone is coming to the region to meet many leaders because what they are saying ... is creating a precious expertise and know-how in terms of how to set the path for the two-state solutions,” Mr Di Maio said.

The former Italian foreign minister praised the initiatives led by GCC countries that have pushed for a ceasefire in Gaza, as well as a two-state solution.

“We have to continue to support any kind of initiative that the GCC countries are leading in terms of normalisation and de-escalation in the region,” Mr Di Maio said.

He hailed the role of the UAE, which has been working on a long-term solution including an independent Palestinian state that is fully integrated into the wider region.

"I think that the role [the UAE] plays in the region is not only in leadership to help regional prosperity, but also as an important role in facilitating the diplomatic channels with some countries in the region,” he said.

EU mission in Red Sea

Mr Di Maio also said a new EU defensive mission in the Red Sea was necessary to protect commercial shipping.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have launched a campaign of attacks against ships in the Red Sea they say are linked to Israel. It has caused major shipping companies to stop using the Red Sea – through which almost 15 per cent of global seaborne trade usually passes – and forced them to use a much longer route round southern Africa instead.

The US has led efforts to combat the Houthis in the region and led the creation of a new maritime coalition, Operation Prosperity Guardian, in December.

The coalition has failed to prevent further attacks on shipping and was followed up by US and UK air strikes on Houthi sites in Yemen.

Last month, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced the EU would be establishing a maritime mission to the region called Aspides, the ancient Greek word for shield.

Mr Di Maio agreed that the mission would be purely defensive.

“This is why, as the European Union, we are about to officially decide a new autonomous and defensive maritime mission in the Red Sea, called Aspides, in order to protect respective commercial ships that are going through Bab Al Mandab, Red Sea and Suez Canal,” he said.

The mission is expected to be officially launched at a meeting of the EU's 27 foreign ministers on Monday.

Mr Di Maio said the mission was aimed at defending trade and the freedom of navigation, and would benefit from collaboration.

“EU and its Member States want to send a strong message about our clear commitment to defending the freedom of navigation, including in the Red Sea, which is of direct relevance for the GCC countries,” he said.

He said the EU was willing to work closely with the Gulf states “to de-escalate and work for the peace and prosperity of the region”.

Updated: February 16, 2024, 3:42 AM