Just one year after the EU received permission from the UN Security Council to stop human smuggling out of Libya, it now wants permission from the Council to block illegal arms shipments to the country. The EU top foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini, urged members to allow EU naval operations in the Mediterranean "to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya by intercepting illegal arms shipments off the coast of Libya."
Mogherini said: "Now once again, we are asking this council to adopt a resolution on authorizing Operation Sophia to enforce the U.N. arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya. I can only hope that this council will once again do the right thing and help us make the Mediterranean a safer place for everyone."
The embargo has been in place since 2011 during the campaign against Gadaffi. However, it is often violated. In the east, General Haftar appears to have received arms and vehicles from the UAE and perhaps Egypt. No doubt the Islamic State and other militias too also receive arms illegally.
The existing naval effort called Operation Sophia would have its mission expanded from intercepting migrant boats to intercepting illegal weapons headed into Libya. The UN will probably allow exceptions to the embargo to allow arms and equipment to go to forces loyal to the Government of National Accord(GNA) who are fighting the Islamic State.
However, the ban will still be in place for arms destined for General Khalifa Haftar and forces loyal to him and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR). No doubt he will be angry at the EU move. The EU request is expected to come up for a vote in mid-June. Mogherini said: “I can only hope that this Council will once again do the right thing and help us make the Mediterranean a safer place for everyone.”
The PM of the GNA, Faiez Serraj said that the expanded mission for Operation Sophia would bolster his government since weapons come into Libya from the Mediterranean that often end up in the hands of militias beyond his control. While some no doubt go to the Islamic State, others may be going to Haftar who does not recognize the GNA and which the GNA cannot control. He refuses to join a unified command against the Islamic State as requested by the GNA. He also refuses a demand for a ceasefire in Benghazi. So far he has not attacked the Islamic State although he announced he was marching on Sirte weeks ago.
Martin Kobler the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) told the Council that the number of weapons floating around in Libya was more than 3 times its population of six million. He said: “These weapons do not fall from the sky, but come in increasingly through illegal shipments by sea and by land. These shipments must end if there is to be any serious hope of bringing peace to Libya.”
The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin said that he had concerns about the way other groups in Libya might react to the Council measure, no doubt a reference to Haftar and his loyalists. Churkin said that Russia was not opposed to allowing Operation Sophia to search for illicit weapons but that they had to be careful about it: "Everything must be done in a way which does not create any suspicions among any of the Libyan parties." This suggests that the searches should be wary of ships going to areas controlled by the rival HoR government.
Churkin said the highest priority should be to have the HoR approve the GNA which he said Russia expects soon. However, there has been no date or plans announced by the UN for such an event as yet. Earlier meetings to have a vote were either without a quorum or disrupted. The UN tried to arrange a meeting in the western city of Ghadames but it never took place.
There was never an explanation as to why it did not happen.
The plan was to have only members of the HoR present who supported the GNA in principle. Perhaps another attempt at this way to avoid having a full HoR meeting will happen soon.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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