EU Urges UN to Allow Operation Sophia Vessels to Enforce Libya Arms Embargo at Sea

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini speaks to journalists at the UN headquarters in New York, June 6, 2016.

On Monday, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini urged the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution which allows Operation Sophia vessels to help enforce the arms embargo placed on Libya.

Mogherini told the 15 member council that EU ships, which have saved thousands of lives and seized over 100 vessels of human smugglers on the Mediterranean Sea, should now be used to help stop illegal arms shipments headed to Libya.

“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,” Mogherini told the council.

“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,” she said.

Britain’s UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft circulated a draft resolution for the council to approve the boarding of vessels in the Mediterranean suspected of smuggling arms, warning that weapons being shipped to Libya may be used by terrorist groups, including ISIS.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that Moscow was not opposed to the resolution, however he had some concerns about how Libya’s rival factions would react to it.

“Our concerns is that everything must be done in a way that does not create any suspicion against any party,” said Churkin.

An arms embargo was placed on Libya after the Libyan Revolution in 2011 saw former dictator Muammar Gaddafi brutally crack down on protesters.

In May, after a meeting between 20 nations was held in Vienna, the international community agreed to partially lift the arms embargo to allow the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to purchase weapons to help in the fight against ISIS.

During the UN Security Council Meeting, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya Martin Kobler, expressed concern at the military situation in the country, saying “uncoordinated military action has raised the spectre of direct clashes between different forces fighting ISIS extremists in areas west of their stronghold in Sirte.”

“Libya is a country awash with weapons — 20 million pieces of weaponry in a land of six million inhabitants,” Kobler said.

“These weapons do not fall from the sky, but come in increasingly through illegal shipments by sea and by land,” he said. “These arms fuel the conflict. These shipments must end if there is to be any serious hope of bringing peace to Libya.”

The enforcement of the arms embargo on the Mediterranean Sea by EU vessels could aid the GNA in its efforts to unite the country, as it would cut off the flow of illegal weapons empowering Libya’s various militias.

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