EU Begins New Naval Operation to Enforce Arms Embargo on Libya

The participating forces are to carry out such tasks as inspecting vessels on the high seas, gathering information on oil and petroleum smuggling, and training the Libyan Navy. The EU says the arms embargo needs to be effectively enforced so that diplomacy aimed at ending Libya's civil war can succeed.   

Photo: Reuters

The European Council announced that it is starting a new effort to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya using aerial, maritime and satellite assets.

The forces participating in Operation Irini "will be able to carry out inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya," the council said March 31 in a press release.

They are also tasked with gathering information on illicit petroleum and crude oil smuggling, contributing to the disruption of human trafficking, and training the Libyan Navy and Coast Guard, it said. The operation has an initial one-year mandate until the end of March 2021.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the country's airspace and some activities on the ground would be scrutinized with drones, satellites and planes.

"Diplomacy cannot succeed unless it is backed by action. The UN arms embargo on Libya needs to be effectively enforced," he said. The embargo was established by UN Security Council resolutions in 2011, 2016 and 2019.

The civil war between the UN-recognized government in Tripoli and the forces of General Khalifa Haftar has been raging since 2014, with both sides receiving foreign military assistance. Commentators say that fighting has intensified in recent weeks with the two sides attempting to make significant gains as international actors are distracted by the coronavirus pandemic.