The Red Sea is “absolutely safe” for vessels not linked to Israel, the US or UK, according to a leading Houthi minister.

The Yemeni militia’s deputy foreign minister, Hussein al-Ezzi, also revealed talks with the European Union on the security situation in the crucial maritime region.

“We once again reiterate that the Red Sea is absolutely safe. Only passage to ships linked to three parties, namely the US, Israel and Britain, are blocked,” al-Ezzi was quoted as saying by Yemen’s al-Masirah TV channel.

Iran’s PressTV website reported him as saying the Houthis had held “constructive talks” with EU representatives to ensure the safety of shipping in the Red Sea.

The comments come at a time when the Houthis appear to have stepped up attacks on vessels, nearly sinking the 32,200-dwt Lebanese-managed cargo ship Rubymar (built 1997) on Sunday, forcing the crew to abandon it.

The attacks began last year to pressure Israel into ceasing its operations in Gaza.

But sometimes the group seems to be using outdated information to ascertain ship links to the three targeted countries, leaving ostensibly unconnected crews feeling under threat.

The Houthis have said the attacks will continue until Israel ends its military actions.

Al-Ezzi claimed 283 commercial ships had sailed in the Red Sea in safety this week, despite claims by the US government that the area is unsafe.

“Unfortunately, shipping companies have been deceived by the US propaganda and reduced passage through the Red Sea because of US efforts to militarise the region,” he added.