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EU re-launch monitoring of arms embargo on Libya, Germany calls to continue political process 

January 21, 2020 at 11:00 am

A soldier inspects the damaged building after targeted by airstrikes of Haftar’s forces at Ain Zara neighbourhood in Tripoli, Libya on 4 January 2020 [Hazem Turkia/Anadolu Agency]

On Monday the European Union (EU) has sought to persuade Italy to resume Operation Sofia to monitor the arms embargo on Libya, and to discuss the European contribution to the implementation of the international agreement reached last Sunday, during the Berlin conference.

“Nothing has been accepted” by the fighters, European Union foreign minister, Josep Borrell, announced before the start of a meeting of foreign ministers of EU countries in Brussels, dedicated to discussing the next stage of the agreement reached during the Berlin conference, on the political solution in Libya.

Head of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Al-Sarraj, and his opponent, leader of the army of eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar, refused to meet during the Berlin conference sponsored by the United Nations.

READ: ‘Haftar has been barking up the wrong tree’

The countries supporting the two Libyan leaders committed to stop providing aid to them, and to respect the arms embargo imposed on Libya, with the aim of forcing the warring parties to negotiate, as explained by German foreign minister, Heiko Maas.

Maas added that the special representative of the secretary-general for Libya, Ghassan Salame, invited Haftar and Al-Sarraj to a meeting this week, with the aim of turning the armistice into a long-term peace process.”

Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj on 7 December 2017 [Cüneyt Karadağ/Anadolu Agency]

Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya Fayez Al-Sarraj on 7 December 2017 [Cüneyt Karadağ/Anadolu Agency]

The European parties are likely to make the first concrete decision in this regard, during their meeting on Monday, including the resumption of Operation Sofia, which was launched in 2015 with the aim of combating the phenomenon of smuggling migrants, and monitoring the United Nations’ arms embargo on Libya. This mission has been suspended since 2019, due to Italy’s refusal to rescue migrants at sea via military ships on its soil.

Borrell stressed: “I think that the mission should be revitalised. We will further discuss the matter.”

READ: EU outlines need for Libya-owned political process at Berlin Conference

Foreign and European affairs minister and minister of immigration and asylum of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, disclosed that: “Operation Sofia was dismissed because of Salvini (the former Italian interior minister). However, Salvini left his position as a state official now.”

Operation Sofia, which was extended until 31 March 2020, is designated currently to air oversight missions.

The representative of one of the EU Member States asserted: “It is necessary to identify the position of Italy”. Upon his arrival at the meeting, Italian foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, did not make any statement.

Di Maio confirmed in a post on Facebook that: “Italy demands all parties to respect the arms embargo, and supports imposing sanctions against those who violate it. Italy is ready to play an advanced role in following up the peace process in Libya.”

READ: The Berlin conference benefited everyone except the Libyans

Borrell stated that “the ministers have to make decisions,” and that he will announce them after the meeting.

The German government called on the parties to the conflict in Libya to continue the path towards a political process after the Berlin conference.

The German government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, indicated on Monday in Berlin that further progress depends on the warring parties in Libya, in particular, adding that these parties are required firstly to establish a transitional phase, which includes a ceasefire and armistice.

Seibert mentioned that the aim of the Berlin conference was to support the efforts of Salame, and to move the initiative forward, while noting that what is important now, is to continue supporting these endeavours.

A spokesman of the German Foreign Ministry confirmed that Germany, as well as the EU, intend to follow up the Libyan issue.

READ: Haftar’s attacks have displaced 90,000 children

Subsequent steps at the level of foreign ministers are scheduled to begin in February.

The spokesman stated that the third step should not be taken before the first one, explaining that when a stable truce is initially reached, then it will be possible to consider how to secure it. He added that if this truce is not achieved, a German army mission in Libya will not be an option.

A German Defence Ministry spokesman conveyed that if this issue was raised, his ministry would be able to respond to it.

Similarly, Seibert stressed the need to prevent future violations of the arms embargo already in place on Libya, adding that the countries participating in the conference pledged not to allow the warring parties to obtain military support, as long as the ceasefire is in force.

Seibert has appealed indirectly to the European parties to unify their position regarding the political solution to the conflict, explaining that this is a focal condition for making progress.

The German Foreign Ministry spokesman announced that the European parties delivered a unified speech during the Berlin Conference on Sunday.

One of the main obstacles for peace in Libya is access to oil wells. Thus, the German Foreign Ministry spokesman adhered to the need to address this problem at the right time, noting that human rights violations and other crimes must be addressed now.

The German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development stated that Germany has provided 77 million Euros in aid to Libya since 2015, becoming the Libyan state’s most important donor. The ministry also explained that this aid is designated to establishing childcare or healthcare institutions.