Afif said that the new mission is to ensure maritime protection in the Red Sea, which is the major shipping route for vessels carrying cargo from Europe. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) – Seychelles’ participation in the “Operation Prosperity Guardian“, a multinational force set up to provide maritime security in the Red Sea is only in the sharing and receiving of information, said Vice President Ahmed Afif on Wednesday.
The participation of Seychelles in the newly set up mission was announced by the United States Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, on Tuesday in Bahrain and got many adverse reactions as to how the island nation will participate.
The subject was raised in the meeting of the Seychelles’ Cabinet of Ministers on Wednesday.
Afif told reporters in a Cabinet press briefing that “Seychelles is a small country with not much resources so our participation will not include putting boats or military personnel to patrol in the Red Sea. Our role is to help in providing and receiving information since many things that happen close by can have an implication for us.”
He said that Seychelles is participating as a member of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) based in Bahrain.
“The group decided to put in place security measures to protect the maritime route and they asked all the 39 member countries to come together and we confirmed our participation,” said the Vice President.
He said that Seychelles has been a member of the Combined Maritime Forces since 2012.
Brigadier Michael Rossette, Chief of Defence Forces, also stated that “our participation in the Combined Maritime Forces is to ensure security in the region and not to participate in conflicts. So there will be no men or women going to the region. This is stated very clearly in the mandate of the Combined Maritime Forces.”
Rosette said that the CMF was created after many pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean in the years 2009 to 2012 and several task forces were created to address different issues including piracy, narcotics and illegal trafficking among others.
Afif said that the new mission is to ensure maritime protection in the Red Sea, which is the major shipping route for vessels carrying cargo from Europe.
“There are many large shipping lines dealing in freight and cargo and they represent 15 percent of the volume of cargo in the world including Seychelles. They have announced that they are suspending their operation through the Red Sea and will continue via other routes,” said the Vice President.
He added that this poses a danger for Seychelles as the island nation imports from 80 to 90 percent by shipping vessels because they are cheaper.
“We will have the problem of how the vessels will reach Seychelles because many of them go through the Middle East and the Red Sea especially coming from Europe. They bring imports like machinery, spare parts, food and not forgetting fuel. We expect that the cost of freight and the cost of fuel will rise as a result of a conflict in the region,” said Afif.
The position taken by the major shipping vessels will also affect exportation from Seychelles.
“We also have exportation of our tuna, our principal export product – fresh, frozen and canned. Our main market is Europe and goes mainly through shipping vessels. So longer routes will mean a rise in cost and this will have an impact on our exportation,” he said.
He said this is why Seychelles has to help ensure that the maritime route is secure and this is like when all the countries joined together to help when there was the piracy scourge.
Afif added that Seychelles remains a Non-Aligned country and maintains its sovereignty.
He said that on the Israel-Hamas conflict “Seychelles has voted for a ceasefire so our position is clear.”
Main opposition party responds
Meanwhile, the leader of Seychelles’ main opposition party, United Seychelles, Dr Patrick Herminie, said in a press release on Wednesday that the government needs to clarify the risks and benefits that the announced involvement poses and also “asked the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Roger Mancienne to convene a meeting of the Assembly, so that citizens’ concerns, through their representatives, could be heard.”