The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution allowing the European Union to expand its naval operations in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coasts.
The resolution was drafted by Britain and France to allow the EU’s maritime force off Libya’s coast to seize illegal weapons as part of Operation Sophia.
EU ships in Operation Sophia are already charged with seizing migrant-smuggling vessels but Security Council President Francois Delattre of France said they “would finally have the means to enforce the arms embargo in Libya.”
Libya UN envoy Martin Kobler told the Security Council last week that Libya was awash with arms. He said there were 20 million pieces of weaponry in the North African state of six million people.
The fall of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 sparked chaos with two competing governments backed by militias scrambling for control of the oil producing country. A power vacuum has allowed Daesh to gain a foothold.
Delattre said the Tuesday measure will act as a potential “game changer” for Libya by cutting off the arms flow “that feeds the instability” in the North African country.
Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov, however raised questions about the real motives of the resolution, arguing that the text doesn’t stress the need for the establishment of united security forces in Libya.
He said Moscow will carefully monitor whether countries where vessels are registered are contacted for consent, and will also scrutinize any requests from the Libyan unity government for exemptions from the arms embargo.
Safronkov further recalled that militiamen loyal to renegade Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who has refused to back the unity government, were “effectively pushing back” against Daesh extremists.
“It is inadmissible to ignore this,” he said.
Libya has had two rival governments since 2014, when politician Khalifa Ghweil and his self-proclaimed government seized control of the capital, Tripoli, with the support of militia groups, forcing the internationally-recognized government to move to the country’s remote eastern city of Tobruk.
The two governments achieved a consensus on forming a unity government, the GNA, last December after months of UN-brokered talks in Tunisia and Morocco to restore order to the oil-rich North African country.