Restoring arms embargo on Libyan groups is priority: EU - GulfToday

Restoring arms embargo on Libyan groups is priority: EU


Libyans walk through a shopping street in Tripoli on Monday. Agence France-Presse

European Union (EU) foreign ministers discussed on Monday how to wield influence “more forcefully” in Libya and restore an arms embargo against the country’s warring parties.

The EU meeting in Brussels came a day after Germany hosted a summit to push for a ceasefire in the civil war, boosting calls for the relaunch of Europe’s naval mission “Operation Sophia.”

Before the meeting there had also been talk of a European military mission to monitor any ceasefire. But ministers were cautious on this.

On Monday, Libya’s major oil fields and production facilities remained closed, its National Oil Corporation said, in a sign that the country’s east-based forces are not backing down after an international summit to end the Libyan civil war.

The continued closure of the oil facilities by tribe members loyal to eastern Libyan forces ratchets up pressure on their adversaries in the west, the UN-backed government that controls the capital, Tripoli.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has underlined the UAE’s determination to continue to pursue security and stability in Libya.

The top diplomat made the statement in Berlin where he is heading the UAE delegation participating in the Berlin International Conference on Libya, which started on Sunday in the German capital under the auspices of the United Nations in the presence of a number of heads of state, foreign ministers and representatives of international organisations.

Sheikh Abdullah praised the efforts of the Federal Republic of Germany to host this important international conference that seeks to find a political solution to the crisis in Libya.

“The UAE has always been seeking to promote peace and development all over the world. Within this context, we are keen to support the achievement of security and stability in Libya, in a way that is based on the non-interference in its internal affairs, and helping the brotherly people of Libya achieve their legitimate aspirations for national unity and development,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

He commended the UN’s patronage of the conference and praised the efforts of the UN envoy to Libya, emphasising the importance of building on the outcomes of the Berlin conference in order to pursue a political solution that contributes to the achievement of security and stability for the Libyan people.

Sheikh Abdullah underlined the strong strategic relations between the UAE and Germany, which, he affirmed, are steadily growing to the common good of the peoples of the two friendly countries.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said there had been “no concrete decision” but that ministers were discussing how the EU “can engage more forcefully.”

Borrell will draw up more detailed proposals for ministers before their next meeting on February 17, but said that “there is an agreement in the council in order to revive, to refocus Sophia.”

Fayez Al Sarraj, the leader of the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, and his strongman opponent Khalifa Haftar refused to meet face-to-face at the Berlin summit.

There has been no political agreement between the sides, but external actors like Turkey, Russia and Egypt have agreed to stop interfering in the conflict.

Until there is a ceasefire to monitor, talk of an outside force will recede. But in the meantime the EU ministers said they will seek a way to revive the Rome-based Sophia mission.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas played down expectations of a rapid end to fighting.

He told reporters that UN Libya envoy Gassam Salame would invite the sides to talks and foreign ministers of the countries involved could meet next month.

“We will deal with integrating the European Union into this process. The issue of the arms embargo will be raised in the United Nations Security Council,” Maas said.

“In this respect, yesterday was only the starting signal that the civil war in Libya could be turned into a political process,” he said.

Last week, Borrell had raised the idea of an EU force to monitor any ceasefire on the ground. Ministers did not rule this out, but their focus was on the naval mission.

Operation Sophia was set up in 2015 to combat people smugglers operating from the Libyan coast and to enforce a UN arms embargo on the warring parties.

WAM / Agencies

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