The Spanish Frigate Méndez Núñez was pulled out of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group (CSG) and will not be deployed in the Persian Gulf, Spanish Acting Defense Minister Margarita Robles announced on May 14th.
Robles insisted that the decision is technical and military, not political, and that Spain respects Washington’s choice. “We respect the decision and when things go back to what was planned with the Spanish Navy, we will resume [the mission],” said the minister
Once the carrier strike group reaches the Indian Ocean, the Spanish warship would rejoin the mission. Speaking in Brussels at a meeting of EU ministers, Robles said that Spain and the US had reached a deal two years ago to include the Méndez Núñez, with 215 sailors on board, in a training mission.
Distancing herself from unilateral moves made by the US, the defense minister insisted that Spain is a “serious and trustworthy partner,” but that its armed forces are only bound by agreements made with the European Union and NATO.
“Spain’s commitment is to the European Union and international organizations, and we will always adopt our common positions from there.”
The May 5th announcement that the CSG would be sent to the Persian Gulf amid growing tensions between US and Iran changed the mission.
“I am legally-minded and when I see that there is a deviation from the agreement, I feel that it is better to temporarily suspend it,” said Robles.
Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, also downplayed Spain’s decision. After admitting that “it is a complicated situation,” he said that “it shouldn’t be taken so hard.”
“When I see that there is a deviation from the agreement, I feel that it is better to temporarily suspend it,” Robles said.
As of May 13th, the USS Abraham Lincoln CSG is active in the Gulf of Aden, USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker reported.
Just several days earlier, amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), fleet supply ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3) and the guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG-74) left the Persian Gulf.
In a statement, US Navy officials did not offer additional details on how the temporary suspension would affect the operation of the strike group.
“I refer you to the Spanish Ministry of Defense for questions regarding future operations with Méndez Núñez,” read a statement from U.S. 5th Fleet. “We value the strong mil-to-mil relationship with our Spanish allies.”
It is clear that Spain simply wishes to not be involuntarily dragged in a possible conflict between the US and Iran.
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