BRUSSELS – EU countries have agreed to “refocus” the mission of the bloc’s anti-migrant smuggling operation in the Mediterranean, concentrating on maintaining the UN arms embargo on Libya, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday.
After chairing talks between EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Borrell said the bloc would also look into ways to help monitor a ceasefire in the conflict-ridden country once it actually takes effect and replaces the shaky ceasefire. currently.
He told reporters that EU ambassadors and experts had been tasked with presenting “concrete proposals on how to implement this ceasefire and enforce the UN arms embargo before the next ministers meet in Brussels on 17 February.
“In the meantime, we need to go from a ceasefire to a real ceasefire,” Borrell said. “We are in a ceasefire that is unstable. A ceasefire can be violated several times a day. Without a ceasefire, it will be difficult to imagine any strong commitment from the EU. “
Libya has sunk deeper into chaos since its longtime dictator, Moammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011. It is now divided into rival administrations, each supported by different nations: the UN-recognized government based in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj , and one based in the eastern part of the country, supported by General Khalifa Hifter.
The EU has deployed a naval mission, Operation Sophia, in the Mediterranean to monitor the UN arms embargo on Libya as well as combat migrant smuggling from the country, but Italy believes its presence only encourages migrants to head to the country’s northern African coasts.
Last year, the government of Rome blocked the deployment of all ships for the mission, and it currently operates almost exclusively using aircraft and pilotless drones. Borrell said ministers agreed to “refocus the mandate” for Operation Sophia on the arms embargo.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Sophia could only be used if it was “dismantled and reassembled in a completely different way.”
“It would be a mission to monitor the embargo, and nothing else,” he said.
Under international law, ships near an emergency call at sea are required to rescue people.
World powers and other countries with interests in Libya’s protracted civil war on Sunday agreed to respect a severely violated arms embargo, hold military support to the warring parties and pressure them to reach a full ceasefire.
Lorne Cook, Associated Press