French Defense Minister Florence Parly announced on Sunday that a French naval base in Abu Dhabi will serve as the headquarters for a European-led mission to protect Gulf waters.
First announced in July, the plan is independent of a US-led maritime initiative which some European countries feared would make US-Iranian tensions worse.
“This morning we formalized that the command post will be based on Emirati territory,” Parly told reporters at the Abu Dhabi base in the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
“We hope ... to contribute to a navigation that is as safe as possible in a zone which we know is disputed and where there has already been a certain number of serious incidents,” she said. She also condemned Iran’s latest violations of a 2015 nuclear deal.
Parly arrived late Saturday in the UAE and held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, according to the UAE state news agency WAM.
Parly did not identify the countries that would be joining the mission, saying that some were still waiting for their respective parliaments to ratify their participation in the initiative.
The command center will host around a dozen officials representing the countries involved, she said. In a speech to French military personnel, she said the next time she visited the base she hoped the mission would be operational and thanked the UAE for supporting it.
It will be run by around 10 to 15 staff members deployed at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi who will "contribute to making maritime navigation in the Gulf as safe as possible", she said.
Earlier this month, Washington launched a maritime coalition based in Bahrain to provide protection to shipping in the troubled Gulf waters and the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Most European governments have declined to take part in the US-led coalition, fearful of undermining their efforts to save the nuclear accord -- which was weakened by Washington's withdrawal last year.
But on Sunday Parly said France "will coordinate with the Americans".
The French minister also held talks with UAE Minister of State for Defense Affairs, Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, reported WAM.
They discussed mutual cooperation between Abu Dhabi and Paris in the areas of defense and the military, as well as several regional and international issues.
They attended the signing of a legal document between the ministries of defense of the UAE and France, which stipulates the exchange of liaison officers to assist in operational communications and military cooperation between the two parties, on the sidelines of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the bilateral defense agreement between the UAE and France, held at Al Salam Base in Abu Dhabi.
Al Bowardi stressed that the ties between the UAE and France are witnessing increased development, especially in the areas of defense and the military, noting that the agreement reflects the keenness of the Ministry of Defense to reinforce its ties with its partners.
Parly highlighted the importance of reinforcing and supporting mutual cooperation between the two countries, especially in the areas of defense and the military.