- Security Council resolution extends EU’s ‘Operation Sophia’
- Goal is to stop weapons flow to terrorists and militias
The United Nations Security Council authorized naval forces from European Union countries to “use all measures” to intercept ships in Libyan waters suspected of carrying weapons to or from the North African country.
The new authorization, approved Tuesday, is part of the war against the Islamic State terrorist group and other militias fighting the nascent national unity government. It expands upon an existing mandate which already allows for the use of military force, an effort known as Operation Sophia. For the first time, however, European navies can now act in Libyan, as opposed to just international, waters.
Enforcing the arms embargo would bolster the UN-backed government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, which is struggling to gain control of Libya after it descended into chaos following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Smuggled arms often end up in the hands of militias contesting the control of Sarraj’s government or reach IS terrorists who have established a base near the central coastal city of Sirte.
The resolution, “has the potential to be a game changer for Libya,” said Francois Delattre, France’s ambassador to the UN and president of the Security Council for this month. “We would finally have the means to enforce the arms embargo in Libya.”
Specifically, the resolution grants a 12-month mandate to “inspect, without undue delay, on the high seas off the coast of Libya, vessels bound to, or from Libya which they have reasonable grounds to believe are carrying arms or related material to or from Libya.”
Europe began its operations to counter migrant smuggling last year after the Security Council adopted a resolution in October authorizing the EU to inspect suspicious vessels and render them “inoperable” if necessary.