Libya’s Civil War: EU Pushes for Extension of Arms Embargo Mission

Written by | Thursday, June 4th, 2020

European Union representatives sought to reassure Russia during a UN Security Conference video call on Tuesday (2 June) after a French warship intercepted an oil tanker off the coast of Libya under an operation to halt the flow of arms to the North African country. During the closed-door meeting, requested by Moscow, EU diplomats were explaining to their Russian counterparts the aims of EU’s naval mission, of which the main one is to enforce an arms embargo on Libya. The EU has reportedly reiterated the “commitment of European states to respect (arms and oil) embargoes … within the strict rules of Security Council resolutions.” Russia is apparently the only Security Council member that has raised concerns about renewing authorization for the Operation Irini high seas inspection mission, which began 1 April, when it expires on 10 June.
Moscow, which has repeatedly denied claims it is providing arms and mercenary troops to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, wants Operation Irini to be in compliance with the UN resolution authorizing it and expects that any renewal to be “unbiased” and to “prevent any imbalances.” “We believe this new operation is just a successor of the previous one,” said French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere, comparing Irini to the EU refugee naval mission Sophia. Another major topic of conversation during the Tuesday’s meeting was the interception of an oil tanker by the French ship off the coast of Tobruk 10 days ago. The Gabon-flagged vessel was to collect a multi-million dollar oil shipment but reportedly had not received authorization from the Tripoli-based Libyan National Oil Corporation. “The UN welcomes France’s actions and indeed all efforts to uphold the UN oil embargo,” the UN said in a statement about France’s involvement in the incident.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) Ahmed Maetig has arrived in Moscow for talks today (3 May), a mere two days after the GNA and the rival self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar had agreed to restart ceasefire talks. Haftar forces, based in the eastern part of the country and supported by Russia, Egypt and UAE, have been waging an offensive since April 2019 to seize the capital Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, which is supported by Qatar, Turkey and Italy. Despite Russia’s denial, the presence of its fighters has been widely documented by journalists and diplomats, with photographs apparently showing Russians in Bani Walid having been posted on social media. According to a leaked UN report, Russian private military contractor Wagner Group deployed about 1,200 mercenaries to Libya to strengthen Haftar’s forces.

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