The European Union announced it will deploy naval vessels in order to enforce the arms embargo on Libya, in a sign that Europe seeks an enhanced role in the ongoing conflict. At a meeting Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed to launch a range of capabilities, including aerial, spacial and maritime ones, in order to monitor and enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya.
According to Bloomberg, talks over the initiative stalled due to a fear among some member states that African migrants making their way from Libya to Europe would take advantage of the EU presence at sea to purposefully get rescued, forcing the vessels to bring them to EU ports. A previous EU naval operation, Sophia, was scrapped due to the concerns of certain EU states that migrants were using such tactics. However, those hesitant states, such as Austria and Italy, said they were comfortable with the new mission, whose focus will be the arms embargo, and will place "clear safeguards against misuse by human traffickers", according to Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg.
EU foreign policy head Josep Borrel, when asked how the naval force would respond to Russian, Turkish or other efforts to break the embargo, noted "they won't be there for a promenade". Borrel went on to say that the EU wishes to launch the operation by the end of March.
The initiative and deployment would be a major test to gauge the EU's ambition to return to global affairs, as foreign and regional powers become increasingly entangled and invested in Europe's immediate neighbour to the south.
foreign ministers meet again in germany to discuss libyan ceasefire efforts; embargo called a 'joke'
The foreign ministers and other senior officials from over 10 countries met in Germany on Sunday to address the ongoing fighting in Libya and reaffirm their support and commitment to a ceasefire and arms embargo, which few have actually upheld.
The embargo was described by one senior UN official as a "joke", that must be upheld. Deputy UN Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams, went on to note that "we all really need to step up here... its complicated because there are violations by land, sea and air, but it needs to be monitored and there needs to be accountability."
Germany, who hosted the Berlin conference in January, together with the UN, gathered this new meeting to pressure the various foreign powers involved in Libya to cease their military interventions. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was quoted as saying "It has been obvious in the last weeks there have been many not insignificant breaches of the weapons embargo." Despite the various explanations for the breaches, "everybody agrees that the path we have taken, which is to separate the conflicting parties from their supporters is still the only path to a possible successful outcome...in Libya."
Despite the best efforts of the UN, Germany and others, Al-Jazeera reports from Tripoli that sporadic fighting has continued, even though the sides agreed to a truce, and that the main issues of enforcing the arms embargo and the ceasefire have not been implemented.
Since the January peace conference in Berlin, the warring sides have met twice in Geneva to broker a ceasefire, and in Cairo to discuss economic matters. The UN Security Council passed a decision regarding foreign intervention in Libya, and signed off on a 55 point road map to end the war. The EU is reportedly discussing the idea of sending naval reinforcement to uphold the arms embargo.
After weeks of behind-the-scenes efforts, the UN Security Council passed (Feb 12) a resolution intended to bring a halt to fighting in Libya. UNSC 2510 demands the rival parties "commit to a lasting ceasefire", according to terms set by the military representatives (from the 5+5 dialogue) who met in Geneva last week.
The draft was put forth by the UK and received the backing of 14 Council members. Russia abstained.
The resolution restated its support for UNSMIL and UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame. It further stressed the international community's commitment to push for a lasting ceasefire, which the member countries gave at the Berlin Conference in January 2020. It also recognised the critical role the African Union and League of Arab States can play to end the conflict.
2510 expressed "grave concern" over the involvement of terrorist groups and the "growing involvement of mercenaries in Libya, despite the promises in Berlin, despite assurances to support and abide by the arms embargo, “including by ceasing all support for and withdrawing all armed mercenary personnel, and demands all Member States not to intervene in the conflict”.
Lastly, the resolution drew attention at the "deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya", poor living standards, lack of basic services and especially regarding the challenges and threats to migrants and refugees.
The UN-led Libyan economic dialogue, one of 3 tracks launched by the UN to help reach a ceasefire and political agreement, kicked off in Cairo earlier this week. The framework was recommended during the Berlin conference, and brought together representatives from 21 financial and banking institutions to discuss uniting sovereign economic intuitions, oil revenue distribution and the management of state resources.
The meeting took place as the first Geneva 5+5 meeting regarding the ceasefire ended without an agreement but with the sides agreeing to return to Geneva on February 18 for further talks.
On the second day of the meetings, the forum discussed establishing a Libyan Economic Experts Commission. The Cairo meeting led to an agreement whereby the commission would work with international organisations to ensure Libyan sovereignty regarding national economic institutions, assets and resources.
Some of the challenges discussed included facilitating banking transactions between the two sides of Libya, uniting competing economic institutions, battling corruption and instituting mechanisms to distribute wealth evenly, as well as reconstruction efforts.
This was the second round of economic talks, after the first was held in January in Tunisia. The political track dialogue group is set to meet on February 26.
round 1 of ceasefire talks do not produce results, round 2 feb 18; talks one of 3 tracks un pursuing vis-a-vis libya
The first round of cease-fire talks, held in Geneva over the weekend, came to an end without reaching a full agreement. The two sides did not negotiate directly, rather through UN mediation. However, although there were some reports of progress, the sides were not able to fully agree on certain demands, such as the GNA’s demand of Haftar to withdraw to his April 2019 positions.
The sides did agree to continue abiding by the truce. Fighting has indeed calmed down, despite occasional reports of skirmishes and artillery fire. However, the two sides agreed to return to a second round of indirect cease-fire talks in Geneva on February 18, according to UNSMIL.
Other issues of disagreement related to returning displaced persons to their homes, something the sides agreed to but could not agree on the best way to achieve this. The sides also expressed their support for ongoing prisoner exchanges, returning dead bodies and welcoming the UN into the process.
UN Libya envoy Salame, said he also spoke with the LNA-linked tribes currently blockading Libya’s eastern oil terminals and is awaiting their demands, which may include a demand the Syrian fighters exit the country, and for a more fair distribution of oil revenues to include LNA-held areas. One statement released by the LNA-tribe called for all GNA militias to withdraw from Tripoli.
The oil blockade will be at the top of the agenda for an upcoming economic meeting set to take place in Cairo, with technocratic and finance representatives from all parts of the country. The Cairo meeting is intended to help prepare for a wider dialogue in coming months.
The UN, in a press release, explained that the commission consists of 3 intra-Libyan tracks organized by the UN, one to discuss a ceasefire, one dealing with economic matters and a political track. The statement noted that “UNSMIL expresses its appreciation to both sides from coming to Geneva, for upholding in earnest the responsibilities they had been entrusted with as well for the professional and positive spirit that characterized their discussions”. It further noted “widespread consensus between both sides with regards to the urgency for Libyans to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country; protect… from foreign interference…”.
Al Jazeera is reporting that the 5+5 ceasefire talks held in Geneva over the weekend have ended with no long-term agreement between the sides. The UN-sponsored talks, agreed upon during the January Berlin summit, included indirect talks between 5 GNA and 5 LNA military representatives. However, according to the UN, who mediated the talks, a breakthrough wasn’t achieved.
The talks were the first ceasefire talks since fighting renewed in April of 2019, when Haftar launched his push to take Tripoli. UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame thanked the representatives for coming and for their “high professional and positive spirit”. However, if Salame reported progress and showed optimism early on, hoping the sides could find “some sort of agreement or middle ground”, the two ultimately split over the GNA’s main demand that Haftar pull his forces back to their April positions (ie. Benghazi).
Salame noted that despite not achieving a long-term agreement, the sides did agree to continue abiding by the truce and preserve Libya’s sovereignty.
Recall that the major regional powers involved in Libya committed to uphold the embargo and not interfere in the Libyan crisis. Despite these promises, Salame and UN Secretary General Guterres, speaking separately, noted the foreign backers of both sides are continuing to supply arms, ammunition and even fighters that are fuelling the conflict. Guterres described the conflict as “severely aggravated by …forces and equipment from many countries, in clear violation …security council…. We have to re-establish the sovereignty of international law …countries should understand that their engagements to promote certain conflicts only increases the potential of action by terrorist groups.”
Guterres called the situation a “scandal” and was “deeply frustrated” by the unfolding events. However, he cited “genuine will” by both sides to reach a settlement.
The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, said there seemed to be a "genuine will to start negotiating" between the warring sides in the ongoing conflict, to reach a lasting ceasefire. In Geneva, where the next phase of the current diplomatic efforts is being hosted,
Salame told reporters that both sides were violating the arms embargo, despite their international backers committing to upholding it in Berlin just weeks prior. Moreover, fighting continues on the ground, despite efforts to push a truce by Russia and Turkey, who back the two sides, respectively.
Salame decried over "20 million pieces of weaponry" and urged the Security Council to pass a resolution reaffirming the arms embargo and adding punitive authority to uphold and enforce it.
The two sides did not meet face-to-face in Geneva, with Salame working to "bridge the gaps in their views on how the lasting, sustainable ceasefire can be organised on the ground."
Efforts currently are focusing on solidifying the current truce to decrease violations and allow to reach a real diplomatic agreement.
The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, said that the rival sides in the conflict have shown "genuine willingness" to strengthen the current truce into a more stable and long-lasting one. This seems to be a marked shift in tone from just a few days ago.
Salame, at the start of the UN-hosted ceasefire 5+5 talks in Geneva, said the "sides expressed their approval of the need to transform the truce into a permanent cease-fire agreement". Just a week ago, Bloomberg Africa points out, Salame remarked to the UN Security Council that the cease-fire was in "name only".
The current talks in Geneva are the latest in a series of international efforts to reach a power-sharing agreement and bring an end to 9 years of fighting. As agreed upon in Berlin, each side is represented by 5 senior military figures. Salame told reporters that the two sides were able to reach a resolution on some issues that affect oil production, especially the El-Sharara field, which has been under an LNA blockade and threatens Libya's economic stability.