Middle East

EU officials push for bloc to enforce Libya arms embargo

BERLIN (AP) — European Union officials are seeking support from member states to have naval ships enforce the U.N. arms embargo against Libya, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.

The confidential proposal from the EU’s diplomatic service suggests the bloc’s dormant anti-migrant smuggling mission, known as Operation Sophia, should be renamed “Operation EU Active Surveillance.”

The proposal, circulated ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers next Monday, urges member states to agree on whether gathering information on and upholding the U.N. embargo should become the naval mission’s “core task,” while monitoring people smuggling would become a “supporting task” carried out from the air.

It goes beyond the agreement by EU countries last month to refocus the mission on the arms embargo by stressing the need to “deploy naval assets in the relevant zone” of its area of operations.

Currently, the EU naval mission Operation Sophia isn’t deploying ships amid disagreement among member states over how to treat migrants picked up from unseaworthy ships.

World powers agreed at a conference in Berlin last month to respect the arms embargo against Libya, but in practice, weapons have continued to flow to the two warring factions in the country.

Since the 2011 ouster and subsequent death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has sunk further into chaos and turmoil. It is currently divided between a U.N.-supported government, based in the capital, Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and supported by an array of militias, and an administration based in the country’s east, supported by Gen. Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar and his self-styled Libyan army have been waging an offensive to capture Tripoli since last April. On Thursday, Haftar’s forces indiscriminately shelled residential neighborhoods around Tripoli, killing one woman and wounding at least four civilians.

The renewed clashes came just hours after the United Nations Security Council endorsed a 55-point road map for ending the war that demanded foreign backers of Libya’s warring sides uphold a widely flouted arms embargo.

Turkey, Italy and Qatar back the Tripoli administration while the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, back Haftar’s side in the conflict.

Reporting by The Associated Press

Image: Mourners carry coffins during a funeral of military cadets in Tripoli, Libya, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. Health officials said the death toll from the airstrike climbed to at least 30 people, most of them students and over 30 others were wounded. The airstrike took place in the city’s south late Saturday, an area which has seen heavy clashes in recent months. Forces based in eastern Libya and led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar have been fighting to seize the capital from the weak but U.N.-supported government. (AP Photo/Hazem Ahmed)

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