UN approves EU operation against arms smuggling

Thu 16 Jun 2016

UN approves EU operation against arms smuggling

On 14 June the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution drafted by Britain and France, which expands EU’s naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea and enforces an arms embargo. The resolution was authorised in October and allows for the inspection of boats off the coast of Libya, when they are suspected of carrying illegal weapons.

Prevention from terrorist groups

The new UN resolution will expand the naval mission Operation Sophia by enforcing an arms embargo. It aims to prevent "arms and related materiel are being used by terrorist groups operating in Libya, including Islamic State (IS) extremists. The EU naval force received UN permission to “seize and dispose” of the weapons and divert vessels and their crew to a nearby port.

In 2011 an embargo was imposed on Libya, but the country has still a lot of weapons. According to information of the UN, the country has around 20 million weapons. British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said “the existing arms embargo has not fully stopped the flow of weapons. ” However, this enforcement of the embargo coincides with a push to grant the unity government an exemption to the arms embargo, with the aim to confront terrorist organisations including IS.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters that the resolution has "the potential to be a game-changer," since a large quantity of arms is smuggled via ship off the coast of Libya. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “the Operation Sophia so far has helped save more than 15,000 lives, apprehended 71 suspected smugglers and disable 139 smuggling boats on the high seas.” She also said the resolution “reflects the international community’s unanimous support to EU work to make the Mediterranean a safer place for everyone, principally for Libyans.” Mogherini added that Operation Sophia would “play an important role” in enforcing the arms embargo.

Competing governments

With the fall of Ghadaffi in 2011, Libya has been in political turmoil. Since 2014 Libya has two rival administrations and parliaments: the internationally recognised authorities based in Tobruk and a rebel-backed authority holding power in the capital, Tripoli (National Salvation). While National Salvation has backed the unity government, the Tobruk government is still opposing it, saying the proposed administration did not represent the interests of the Libyan people but had been formed "according to the demands of militia leaders"

Sources: AlArabiya, Euractiv, UN, Reuters, Middleeasteye