EU agrees to naval and aerial mission to block arms supply to Libya
On 17 February, following an EU foreign minister meeting in Brussels, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell announced that 27 European Union (EU) foreign ministers had agreed to establish a military mission to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya, though the legal text for the mission has yet to be drafted. The aerial and naval mission will be known as Operation EU Active Surveillance and it will involve naval ships, planes and satellites. The mission will operate in the eastern Mediterranean and will not be a part of the EU’s existing Operation Sophia, which has a search and rescue function. The EU leaders were keen to stress that this new mission has a clear and different mandate and is not connected to migrant smuggling. Borrell stated that the EU was not in a position to monitor the Libya-Egyptian land border, where military capabilities are being transported to the Libyan National Army (LNA).
At this time, both Turkey and the UAE are continuing to send military provisions to Libya via sea and air – with the UAE notably sending in large volumes to Benghazi – in violation of the UN arms embargo. The LNA is also receiving military goods by land from Egypt. Although the UN arms embargo on Libya has been in place since 2011, it has frequently and increasingly been openly flouted by various foreign actors, especially as the conflict in Libya has intensified in the last year. The UN Panel of Experts has documented these violations, but no action has been taken to enforce the embargo or sanction those responsible, in part due to divisions within the UNSC on this issue and in part because it is unclear who would be willing to take on the role of enforcing the embargo on the ground. This is a notable step by the EU to actively work to stop the trafficking of arms into Libya, and is a sign that the EU is willing to act, rather than just talk about acting, to help halt the drivers of conflict in Libya.