Europe

EU divided over naval mission in Mediterranean

EU foreign affairs ministers to discuss naval mission to monitor arms embargo in Libya amid tensions

17.02.2020
EU divided over naval mission in Mediterranean

BRUSSELS 

The EU states are divided over the continuation of a naval mission meant to monitor the arms embargo in Libya, EU’s top diplomat said Monday.

Josep Borrell was referring to Operation Sophia, whose relaunch was put back on the agenda in January with a focus on Libya.

It was initially launched in 2015 to block irregular migration in the Mediterranean Sea but was suspended a year ago when the Italian government refused to embark Operation Sophia’s vessels, citing they were offloading refugees in their country.

Borrell said the Libyan peace process was still ongoing, but admitted that EU member states have some “discrepancies” in enforcing the arms embargo and the “situation on the ground is very bad”.

He also confirmed that “more than one member state is against reviving Operation Sophia”, which is why he did not expect a decision on Monday. 

“We will continue working on it,” he said and expressed hope to find an agreement at the next meeting.

Earlier this month, the governments of Hungary and Austria expressed their opposition against the mission, arguing that the EU’s renewed naval presence would encourage human smugglers and illegal migration.

“The Berlin peace process isn’t worth much without an arms control regime,” Luxemburg’s top diplomat Jean Asselborn explained before the meeting.

Since September, several high-level meetings were held in Berlin to put an end to the Libyan conflict, with the participation of the U.S., Russia, Turkey, China, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Algeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) .The negotiations are known as the Berlin peace process.

Since the ouster of late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Khalifa Haftar in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

Libya's legitimate government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since last April, and more than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence.




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