UN says ‘blatant’ violations of Libya arms embargo continue

Libya sits on Africa’s Mediterranean coast, and is divided between rival governments, each supported by various armed militias and foreign backers.
Sunday 26/01/2020
In this Saturday Aug 31, 2019 photo, fighters of the 'Shelba' unit, allied with the UN-supported Libyan government, aim at enemy positions at the Salah-addin neighbourhood front line in Tripoli, Libya. (AP)
In this Saturday Aug 31, 2019 photo, fighters of the 'Shelba' unit, allied with the UN-supported Libyan government, aim at enemy positions at the Salah-addin neighbourhood front line in Tripoli, Libya. (AP)

The United Nations decried “continued blatant violations” by several countries of an arms embargo on war-torn Libya, flying in the face of recent pledges made last week at an international conference in Berlin.

The UN support mission in Libya didn’t name any specific nations, but said they included “several who participated in the Berlin Conference.” Saturday’s statement said these countries were supplying advanced weapons, armoured vehicles and foreign fighters.

Libya sits on Africa’s Mediterranean coast, and is divided between rival governments, each supported by various armed militias and foreign backers. It has the ninth largest known oil reserves in the world and the biggest oil reserves in Africa.

The weak but UN-recognized government in the capital Tripoli is backed by Turkey, and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy. Rival forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar receive support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia.

“Over the last ten days, numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advanced weapons, armored vehicles, advisers and fighters,” the UN statement said.

The UN warned that continuing to funnel arms into the conflict threatens the “fragile truce” in Tripoli. Haftar’s forces have laid siege to the capital since last April. A cease-fire was brokered earlier this month by Russia and Turkey.

At the Berlin summit, many world powers with an interest in Libya pledged to halt foreign interference and honor the UN arms embargo.

Among those who attended the Berlin conference were Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The peace push followed a surge in Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli, which threatened to plunge Libya into chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi.

Earlier this month, powerful tribal groups loyal to Haftar also seized several large oil export terminals along the eastern coast as well as southern oil fields. The closure of Libya’s major oil fields and production facilities has resulted in losses of more than $255 million in the six-day period ending Jan. 23, the country’s national oil company said Saturday.

(AFP)