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European Union condemns Haftar, yet does not stop arming him

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not seen) hold a joint press conference in Brussels, Belgium on 9 December, 2019 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not seen) hold a joint press conference in Brussels, Belgium on 9 December, 2019 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

The stance of the European Union (EU) on the Libyan crisis raises increasing questions with regards to its selective position on the arms embargo in Libya. The EU announced that the accelerating violence in the Libyan capital of Tripoli has resulted in an escalation of civilian casualties, stressing the need to end the violence immediately.

This came in statements made by the EU high representative for security and foreign policy, Josep Borrell. The statements of the European official commented on the bombing of the Port of Tripoli by the militias of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar on Tuesday, killing three civilians and injuring five others.

Borrell confirmed in his statements: “The violence increased in Libya, including the bombing that targeted the Port in Tripoli, which exacerbated the humanitarian situation and increased civilian casualties.” The European official called to stop these attacks as a matter of urgency, stressing on the need for all parties to abide by the ceasefire, and return to political dialogue.

The position of the EU raises astonishment of the observers due to the stance it has taken regarding the Libyan crisis, especially its view on the imposition of the arms embargo, as the decision recommended by the EU Union regarding the launch of the eastern Mediterranean operation to monitor the prohibition of exporting arms to Libya, has been noticeable.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) rejected the EU’s decision to monitor the prohibition of exporting arms, specifically to eastern Libya.

The EU have had to monitor the maritime and land borders, because the weapons have been reaching the forces of Haftar across the borders.

Read: UN mission on Libya condemns Haftar attack, calls for resumption of talks

Borrell, who condemned Haftar’s bombing of the Port of Tripoli, has himself announced that he will launch a new naval operation in the eastern Mediterranean to monitor the implementation of the United Nations (UN) arms embargo imposed on Libya.

On 11 February, the UN Security Council voted in favour of 14 countries against Russia’s abstention, in favour of Resolution 2509, to extend the sanctions system imposed on Libya. The council have therefore extended its decision to ban the export of arms to Libya until 30 April, 2021.

However, Haftar’s forces have been violating the ceasefire on a daily basis by launching attacks on Tripoli, the last of which was the bombing of the Port of Tripoli, the only incident that the EU has condemned.

The EU’s position has been criticised by Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who emphasised that the EU has no authority to make decisions regarding Libyan affairs.

The Turkish president confirmed that his country will support the legitimate government of Tripoli (GNA) to expand its control over all of Libya.

The Turkish position does not encourage violence, but it rather seeks to achieve balance and deterrence against Haftar, to force him to adopt a reasonable approach and to sit at the negotiating table with the rest of the Libyan parties.

Read: EU special mission to enforce arms embargo on Libya

There is no point in negotiating

The standpoint of the EU will not achieve any balance, and has resulted in the GNA losing hope in the negotiations. This has been directly expressed by Fayez Al-Sarraj, who announced the suspension of all military, political and economic negotiations sponsored by the UN mission with Haftar.

It appears that the EU does not listen to the reports of the mission that condemned the attacks, as it only focuses on how the GNA defends itself, leaving Haftar and his militia to carry out the highest level of violence and only issues condemnation and denunciation statements, while turning a blind eye to these militias’ arming sources, which are widely-known.

The internationally-recognised GNA is under daily armed attacks by the militias of Haftar, who is backed by regional and European countries. The EU has only been issuing condemnation and denunciation statements, and Washington has only been expressing their “concern”. The US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, confirmed that the USA is “concerned” about the attacks that affected the Tripoli sea port, calling for progressing with peaceful dialogue and committing to the Geneva talks. However, scepticism surrounds the possibility of proceeding with the talks, until Haftar finds a deterrent to prevent him or his supporters from passing the weapons with which he is killing the Libyan people.

Read: Foreign mercenaries are flocking to Libya

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