The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution allowing countries and regional organizations to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that are suspected of violating the UN arms embargo on the troubled north African country.
The French-sponsored resolution received a 14-0 vote, with Russia abstaining. The short resolution extends the inspection authorization for a year.
An EU mission called Operation Irini, which means “peace” in Greek, has been monitoring the situation since March 2020.
The EU stated at the outset that “the execution of the UN arms embargo through the employment of aerial, satellite, and naval capabilities” would be its “primary role.”
When Irini began, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that the inspections will help to reduce illegal arms trafficking “and thereby facilitate the long-awaited political settlement of Libya’s lengthy conflict.”
“However, this never happened,” he claimed, adding that Operation Irini and its predecessor, Operation Sophia, had “no successful incidents of illegal products interception.”
“We will focus on whether the operation is effective in preventing illegal arms flows and complies with the law of the sea,” Nebenzia said, adding that Russia will monitor Irini’s operations over the following 12 months.
During the first two years of its existence, Operation Irini stated it researched almost 6,200 ships and conducted nearly 250 visits (also known as friendly approaches) and 22 inspections on merchant vessels. According to the report, one unlawful cargo ship was detained, preventing the illegal transport of jet fuel for military planes to Libya.
Irini claimed it monitors transport activity at 16 Libyan ports and oil installations, as well as 25 airports and landing strips, on a regular basis.
Libya, which is wealthy in oil, was thrown into chaos in 2011 when a NATO-backed rebellion toppled tyrant Muammar Qaddafi, who was eventually assassinated. It was then split between two opposing governments: one in the east, led by military commander Khalifa Haftar, and one in the capital, Tripoli, backed by the United Nations. Different militias and international powers assist either side.
Haftar and his soldiers launched an operation in April 2019 in an attempt to retake Tripoli. After Turkey increased its military backing for the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries, his campaign came to a halt.
A ceasefire accord signed in October 2020 resulted in an agreement on a transitional administration in early February 2021, and elections to unite the country were slated for December 24.
However, they were annulled, and the country today has two competing administrations, each led by a Libyan.