Should Belgium participate in a mission to ensure the safety of the Straits of Hormuz, it would have to be as part of an EU deployment, Foreign and Defence Minister Didier Reynders told a parliamentary commission on Wednesday.
Belgium received a formal request from the United States on 19 July to take part in the Sentinel maritime security mission in the Straits, the scene of tensions between Iran, the UK and the US.
The request was analysed and it shows that participation within a European framework would be “the most suitable”, Reynders explained in response to questions from Theo Francken (Nieuw Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA) and Yasmina Kherbache (Socialistische Partij Anders, sp.a).
European countries are still hesitating to accept Washington’s invitation. Thus far, only the United Kingdom, Australia and Bahrein have signed on to Sentinel. France has refused to send escort ships but is calling for a “dissuasive presence” and a European observer mission in the region. Germany has no wish to join Washington’s maximalist initiative, but views as “conceivable” a maritime protection mission by European countries. The Netherlands, for its part, is willing to participate in a maritime mission but within a European framework.
Belgium is prepared to study its options within the framework of a European initiative, Reynders said, stressing that there is so far nothing precise in this regard.
He added that he would provide the Belgian Parliament, through its commissions on defence and monitoring operations abroad, with the information needed to prepare such an operation.
Belgium’s federal government is a caretaker one and no longer has a majority in the Chamber.