Thank you for contacting me about recent Houthi attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, dangerous, and profoundly destabilising. Attacks on vessels, including commercial vessels, using unmanned aerial vehicles, small boats, and missiles, including the historic first use of anti-ship ballistic missiles, are a direct threat to the freedom of navigation that serves as the bedrock of global trade in one of the world’s most critical waterways. These attacks threaten innocent lives from all over the world and constitute a significant international problem that demands collective action.
In response to these continued attacks against vessels transiting the Red Sea, the UK and the USA, with support from the Netherlands, Canada, Bahrain, and Australia, conducted joint strikes in accordance with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defence, consistent with the UN Charter, against a number of targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. These precision strikes were intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of international mariners in one of the world’s most critical waterways.
The Houthis’ more than two dozen attacks on commercial vessels since mid-November constitute an international challenge. This action demonstrates a shared commitment to freedom of navigation, international commerce, and defending the lives of mariners from illegal and unjustifiable attacks.
I am assured that the UK Government’s aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but the UK is clear that it will not hesitate to defend lives and ensure the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.
Calls for Parliament to vote on the airstrikes: I am aware that the Prime Minister needs to make decisions such as these based on the military, strategic and operational requirements. I am assured that there will be an opportunity when Parliament is sitting for this situation to be discussed and debated.
Steps Previously Taken
Recognising the broad consensus as expressed by 44 countries around the world on December 19, 2023, as well as the statement by the UN Security Council on December 1, 2023, condemning Houthi attacks against merchant and commercial vessels transiting the Red Sea, the UK and eleven other countries issued a joint statement on January 3, 2024. This called for the immediate end of illegal attacks and warned that malign actors would be held accountable should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and the free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.
Despite this strong warning, attacks in the Red Sea have continued, including the launch of numerous missiles and one-way attack aerial vehicles against ships in the Red Sea on 9 January 2024, including US and UK vessels. On 10 January 2024, the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 2722, which also condemned these attacks and demanded that they cease.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP