Published: January 21, 2020
The EU says it will use its naval mission in the Mediterranean to enforce UN embargo as Tripoli clashes threaten shaky truce
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France will co-ordinate with Algeria's efforts for a ceasefire in Libya after the north African country offered to hold inter-Libyan talks on its soil.
In a visit to Algeria on Tuesday, Mr Le Drian said the two countries shared “a convergence of views” on resolving the Libya conflict and stressed they would “act together so that the efforts initiated at the Berlin conference can continue”.
The visit came as the European Union agreed to “refocus” its naval operations in the Mediterranean to help enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya.
The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc will also look at ways to help monitor a ceasefire in the country once one replaces the fragile truce currently in place.
A key component of the naval mission, named Operation Sophia, had been to thwart migrant smuggling from the country, but Italy believes the operation only encourages migrants to set out for its shores from northern Africa.
Last year, the government in Rome blocked the deployment of any ships to the mission, and it currently functions almost exclusively using aircraft and unmanned drones.
Mr Borrell said the ministers agreed to “refocus the mandate” of Operation Sophia in favour of the arms embargo.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Sophia could be used only if it is “dismantled and reassembled in a completely different way”.
“It would be a mission for monitoring the embargo, and nothing else,” he said.
Italy and France are divided on tackling the ongoing conflict in Libya.
A fragile truce between Libyan National Army chief Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar and the UN-backed Government of National Accord was threatened by continued fighting south of Tripoli.
World leaders last week committed to ending foreign involvement in the conflict and to upholding a weapons embargo on the country. They failed to achieve a permanent truce.
UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attend a press conference on the International Libya Conference in Berlin. Getty Images US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk on the sidelides of a Peace summit on Libya in Berlin. AFP Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (R), Russian President Vladimir Putin (2ndL), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2ndR) and French President Emmanuel Macron (front) talk on the sidelides of a Peace summit on Libya in Berlin. AFP Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres attends a press conference on the International Libya Conference in Berlin. Getty Images UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame attends a press conference on the International Libya Conference in Berlin. Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meet on the sidelides of a Peace summit on Libya in Berlin. AFP Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet on the sidelides of a Peace summit on Libya in Berlin. AFP UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salame, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Spokesman of the German government Steffen Seibert attend a press conference on the International Libya Conference in Berlin. EPA Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the conference on Libya at the Chancellery in Berlin. AP Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar greeting with French President Emmanuel Macron (C) in the German capital Berlin. AFP
Renewed fighting has caused a spike in the numbers of migrants attempting to flee to safety in Europe across the Mediterranean.
At least 63 migrants are known to have died attempting to reach Europe this year, according to data from the UN migration agency.
Future Libya talks are certain to face huge challenges, particularly after forces loyal to Field Marshal Haftar blocked oil exports from Libya's main ports last week.
A surge in the number of Syrian mercenaries being flown in by Turkey to prop up the GNA has also fuelled concerns.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday that 28 Syrian fighters have so far been killed during the Turkish-backed deployment in Tripoli. source