A German frigate carrying 250 soldiers has departed Germany to start a five-month mission as part of the European Union efforts to enforce a United Nations embargo on the flow of weapons into Libya.
Germany’s ‘Sachsen’ class air-defence frigate ‘Hamburg’ set sail for the Mediterranean from the port city of Wilhelmshaven on Tuesday. The German frigate will participate in the EU’s ‘Irini’ mission, launched in May, which is tasked with preventing the flow of weapons into Libya as well as gathering information on illegal oil exports from the country and disrupting people smuggling in the region.
Satellites and planes are also being used to monitor the arms embargo. The Hamburg’s crew members are set to return on December 20.
“We are facing a mission that will present the ship and crew with previously unknown challenges in several respects,” Commander Jan Fitschen said at the start of the mission.
It is taking place on “difficult political and operational terrain”, he said.
This is indeed the case, as there is no shortage of arms smugglers introducing new weapons into the conflict taking place in Libya, and some of them are accompanied by powerful military escorts.
Countries accused of violating the embargo include Turkey, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Turkey supports the Government of National Accord and Prime Minister Fayez Serraj based in Tripoli, which is vying for power with the House of Representatives and its military commander Khalifa Haftar. Egypt, Russia and the UAE support the House of Representatives.
Turkey has repeatedly claimed that the EU’s Operation Irini disproportionately targets Turkey’s weapons shipments to the Government of National Accord.
Recently, Germany, France and Italy for the first time threatened sanctions to enforce the UN arms embargo, which has been in place for nine years. LINK
In June, the EU asked NATO for help with its naval mission enforcing an arms embargo on Libya, after Turkey prevented one of the warships participating in the mission from inspecting a suspect vessel. The freighter involved was accompanied by a military escort.
A senior EU official said the bloc had contacted NATO to see “how we can have arrangements” with the military alliance’s Operation Sea Guardian in the eastern Mediterranean. At the time NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian had two ships patrolling the Mediterranean to monitor shipping, deter terrorism and ‘project stability’.
It gave information and logistical support to Irini’s predecessor, Operation Sophia, for a number of years.
“Allies are currently discussing how NATO could support the EU’s new maritime mission Irini,” a NATO official said. “It is important that the UN arms embargo is fully implemented.”
However, several months later no progress has been made and it is very unlikely that either the ‘EU’ or ‘NATO’ will be able to enforce the UN embargo against freighters escorted by the Turkish navy, which has repeatedly demonstrated that it has no intention of ending the flow of weapons to its allies in Libya.
Moreover, changing the parameters of NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian to include assisting the Irini mission would need approval from all 30 NATO members – meaning Turkey can veto the move.
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