Libya‘s Incessant Crisis: Questions Mount About EU‘s Anti-Arms Mission

Written by | Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Questions have been raised over the EU’s new anti-arms mission, which was officially launched last week, because it deals primarily with naval violations, but not land transfers.”Diplomacy cannot succeed unless it is backed by action,”Joseph Borrell, the European Union’s diplomat-in-chief, said while announcing the launch of Operation Irini that is seen as the bloc’s latest attempt at curbing the flow of weapons to war-torn Libya. The North African country has been engulfed in chaos since longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011. Libya has since been split between two rival administrations vying for power, both of whom are backed by international actors, who have repeatedly pledged to end their support for the warring factions.
Thus Operation Irini – Greek for „peace“ – has been designed to tackle the problem of continuing breach of the UN’s arms embargo by external powers, who have been using sea, air and land routes to replenish the war stocks of their allies inside Libya and, in turn, contributed to the prolongation of the conflict. However, experts have pointed out that the EU mission has been designed to deal primarily with naval violations of the embargo, which puts its effectiveness in doubt. “There are two entry points to Libya, the western maritime border which Turkey is using to ship in weapons to the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, and the eastern border which Egypt and the United Arab Emirates use to support Haftar,” Anas El Gomati, founder and director of the Sadeq Institute, explains. Thus, given the EU’s focus on the maritime access to Libya, “there is no doubt that Egypt and the UAE will emerge as the biggest winners. The Turks have no option but to ship their weapons by sea, and this is the terrain that is now being policed by the EU.”
Greece objected to the maritime border deal between the Tripoli-based GNA government and Turkey signed last November, which ignores Greek sea rights in an area that is thought to contain potentially rich natural gas deposits.According to El Gomati, that led to countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt joining forces and reevaluating their relationship with the GNA because all of them have all laid claims to these waters. “The most crucial element of the EU mission is that they are able to intercept the Turkish navy or any commercial vessels that want to enter Libya. It was designed by the Greeks to specifically target Turkey.” However, this is unlikely to deter Turkey from providing military support to the GNA, as Tarek Megerisi from the European Council for Foreign Relations explains, adding that he is “sceptical that they will actually try and push for accountability with any evidence gathered by the monitoring.” Both experts agreed that a more viable alternative would be to enforce the arms embargo on all parties, while also admitting that such an operation would be much more expensive expensive and difficult to accomplish.

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