Four frigates from Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, which form part of the European Maritime Force (Euromarfor) started exercises yesterday, an operation which will continue until June 21 and will include a visit to a North African country for the first time since it was formed in 1995. Spanish Admiral Francisco Rapallo Comendador, who is commanding Euromarfor, officially started the exercise from the deck of the frigate Reina Sofia. The ceremony was attended by the leading local civil and military authorities. According to the Defence Ministry, the frigates will embark on a series of manoeuvres which will take them to several ports, starting with Split in Croatia and ending in Cadiz. Euromarfor, a unit formed by different ships according to its objectives, is activated for exercises or real operations. Its composition is variable and it was set up in 1995 by France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, to carry out missions for the Western European Union and NATO. Its command is assigned annually to the commander of the Fleet of one of the member countries. On this occasion, four frigates and 725 men are involved and the commander of the mission is Spanish Captain Fernando Gea Guerrero, who was present at a press conference given by Admiral Rapallo. The frigates, which were open to the public over the weekend, are the Aconit of France, Libeccio from Italy, Sacadura Cabral of Portugal and the Reina Sofia of Spain. After arriving in Split, they will take part in Franco-Italian manoeuvres off Sardina. At the beginning of June, they will go to the port of Tunis for the presentation of Euromarfor in North Africa, and will then leave for the Straits of Gibraltar, to take part in the Tapon exercise, organised by the Spanish Navy.

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