Rabat – On Monday, August 10, France, Germany, and Italy announced they are moving forward with a plan to apply EU sanctions to those they deem responsible for the in-flow of weapons in Libya despite its arms embargo. Increasingly advanced weaponry has continued to stream into Libya, despite a UN arms embargo that bans any arms exports to the war-torn country.
The three EU member states have prepared a list of individuals and companies claimed to be in direct violation of the embargo. Two Libyan nationals and three foreign companies, registered in Turkey, Jordan, and Kazakhstan, are currently on the list for potential sanctions, according to German press agency DPA.
The move by France, Italy, and Germany has been under consideration for weeks, with several national leaders calling for consequences for repeated breaches of the UN-mandated embargo. Since the start of the embargo, Libya has seen an escalation in the use of complex weapons including drones, anti-aircraft missiles, and fighter jets.
The list does not include any of the UAE-based companies recently discovered breaching the embargo to provide jet fuel for the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). Both sides of the conflict have received essential support from a select bloc of foreign allies.
However, Turkish assistance to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) passes through the Mediterranean, where it can be monitored or intercepted. Supply lines for Khalifa Haftar often pass through Egypt, where shipments are difficult to monitor or stop.
It is likely the sanctions would have a much greater impact on Turkish supplies compared to Haftar’s logistical support.
As the war in Libya continues to wreak havoc on the country, the three EU states hope the threat of sanctions could spur increased compliance with the arms embargo. As part of the UN mandate, the EU recently started its own patrols of the Mediterranean Sea off Libya’s coast under “Operation Irini.”
European naval vessels and wide-ranging intelligence gathering aims to monitor the in-flow of weapons and the illegal out-flow of oil products that are often used to pay for arms purchases. But many supporters of the warring parties have flaunted these efforts, with Turkish ships refusing inspection and combatants regularly showing off new arms on social media.
“We are prepared to consider a possible use of sanctions if infringements against the land, sea and air embargo continue,” a joint statement by the three nations stated, but arms continue to arrive in Libya. On August 8, the Libya Observer and Radio France Internationale announced that Russia and Egypt had started to deploy highly advanced anti-aircraft systems, possibly including Russia’s state-of-the-art S-400 missiles systems.
Motivations and ramifications
The motivations behind the sanctions appear closely related to the recent string of victories for the GNA, which has benefited greatly from Turkish support. The opposing LNA is led by Khalifa Haftar, who visited both Germany and France in March.
France is part of a bloc with the UAE and Egypt that has provided support to the LNA. The LNA would benefit from a reduction in Turkish supplies provided by breaching the arms embargo, while support through Egypt could continue without maritime transportation, bypassing Operation Irini.
As with most developments in the conflict, the Libyan people will feel the greatest impact from the geopolitical posturing of foreign actors. If the sanctions indeed slow Turkish support while overlooking LNA supply lines, the conflict could once again become balanced and continue its bloody impasse, with little regard for the will and the needs of the Libyan people.
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