Türkiye likely to extend Gulf of Aden mission amid Red Sea tensions

The Turkish frigate TCG Gemlik, prepares to sail toward the coast of Somalia for a NATO mission, Muğla, Türkiye, Feb. 1, 2010. (AP Photo)
The Turkish frigate TCG Gemlik, prepares to sail toward the coast of Somalia for a NATO mission, Muğla, Türkiye, Feb. 1, 2010. (AP Photo)


The Turkish naval staff deployed to the Gulf of Aden, Somali territorial waters and the Arabian Sea will see their mandate end on Feb. 10, but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday sent a motion to extend the mandate for another year to the Turkish Parliament. Parliament, dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) led by Erdoğan, will likely ratify the motion.

If Parliament greenlights it, it will be the 14th extension to the mandate. The motion refers to United Nations Security Council resolutions dating back to 2008 as the basis of troop mandate. The resolutions were adopted against piracy and related crimes affecting international vessels sailing in the said region. On Feb. 10, 2009, the Turkish Parliament issued the first approval for deploying Turkish troops to the area. The motion says the deployment provides security for Turkish-flagged vessels and commercial vessels linked to Türkiye and contributes to joint operations by other countries against sea piracy and maritime terrorism. The motion also facilitates the delivery of humanitarian relief to the said areas. The Presidency said in the motion that it also helped the Turkish army’s naval components to gain regional experience and supported national policies regarding the relevant countries while bolstering Türkiye’s regional and international role within the U.N. system and its “visibility” in the international community.

The Gulf of Aden, near Yemen and close to the Bab al-Mandeb strait, the world’s fourth-biggest chokepoint for oil transit, is a strategic energy route for Middle Eastern crude oil. The Arabian Sea and Somalia are adjacent to the Gulf and the strait.

Tension surged in the Middle East, the region that hosts the majority of global oil resources, after U.S. and British warplanes last week carried out airstrikes in the Yemeni cities of Sanaa, Hudaydah and Taiz in response to the Houthis’ ongoing attacks on international shipping lanes in the Red Sea. Expressing his views on the attacks, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that they would not hesitate to take further measures, if necessary, to protect the U.S. people and the free flow of international trade. The U.S. military said that the Houthis have carried out 27 attacks in the Red Sea since Nov. 19, 2023.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron defended the action to strike Yemen, commenting that the U.K. is “prepared to back our words with actions” against the Houthis. In response, the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen said they would continue their military operations against Israel and prevent Israeli ships from passing through the Red Sea, where the world’s largest oil trade occurs. The decision by numerous shipping companies to cease operations has led to the suspension of energy supplies via the Red Sea route and an increase in the anticipation of a global supply chain crisis, both of which are driving up oil prices.

The motion says Türkiye attached importance to developing international cooperation against maritime piracy, always endorsed international efforts in this field and actively contributed to related work by the U.N., NATO, the European Union and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) earlier contributed to Operation Ocean Shield of NATO between 2009 and 2016, an anti-piracy initiative in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Since 2009, it has supplied naval ships to the Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151), a multinational naval task force set up in 2009 in response to piracy. The Turkish navy will take over the command of CTF-151 on July 24.

Erdoğan condemned Friday the U.S. and British airstrikes on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, saying the attack would turn the Red Sea into a “bloodbath.”

“First of all, they are not proportional. All of these constitute disproportionate use of force,” Erdoğan told journalists after Friday prayers in Istanbul. “It is as if they aspire to turn the Red Sea into a bloodbath.”

Erdoğan said his government had received news from various channels that the Houthis were conducting “successful defense and gave successful answers both to the U.S. and Britain.”

Houthis on Sunday fired an anti-ship cruise missile toward an American destroyer in the Red Sea, but a U.S. fighter jet shot it down, officials said. The attack marks the first U.S.-acknowledged fire by the Houthis since America and allied nations began strikes Friday on the rebels following weeks of assaults on shipping in the Red Sea. The Houthis, a Shiite rebel group allied with Iran that seized Yemen’s capital in 2014, did not immediately acknowledge the attack.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the U.S. would retaliate for the latest attack. The Houthi fire on Sunday went in the direction of the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer operating in the southern reaches of the Red Sea, the U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement. The missile came from near Hodeida, a Red Sea port city long held by the Houthis, the U.S. said.

“An anti-ship cruise missile was fired from Iranian-backed Houthi militant areas of Yemen toward USS Laboon,” Central Command said. “There were no injuries or damage reported.” The first day of U.S.-led strikes Friday hit 28 locations and struck more than 60 targets with cruise missiles and bombs launched by fighter jets, warships and a submarine. Sites hit included weapon depots, radars and command centers, including in remote mountain areas, the U.S. has said. The Houthis have yet to acknowledge how severe the damage was from the strikes, which they said killed five of their troops and wounded six others.

The U.S. Navy on Friday warned American-flagged vessels to steer clear of areas around Yemen in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden for 72 hours after the initial airstrikes.

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