25th Feb 2021

EU readying arms embargo on Libya

  • Even Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has now called for Colonel Gaddafi to step down (Photo: European Commission)

Even Italy, Libya's longtime close ally has called for the country's isolated leader, Colonel Moammar Gaddafi to go. The message came as the European Union readied sanctions including an arms embargo to be placed on the regime.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini on Sunday told domestic TV channel Sky Tg24 that Mr Gaddafi should step down, according to a report from Deutsche Presse Agentur. The comments came after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi admitted that the colonel had lost control of Libya.

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Also on Sunday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that the bloc is to impose sanctions "as a matter of urgency", following a unanimous resolution by the United Nations Security Council calling for the adoption of tough measures.

"The EU fully endorses this resolution and will implement the restrictive measures as a matter of urgency. The EU had already started to work on restrictive measures," she said. "Preparations are already well underway,"

On Friday evening, it emerged that the bloc had agreed a package of sanctions against Libya, including an embargo on arms sales to the country.

Diplomats from the 27 member states reached agreement on Friday afternoon after days of Italian resistance supported by other countries on the frontline of what Rome has said will be a "biblical exodus" of immigrants across the Mediterranean.

Beyond arms restrictions, the package also blocks sales of any law enforcement equipment that could be used for internal repression.

Following a similar move on Thursday by Switzerland, the EU intends to freeze the continental assets of Gaddafi and his associates and ban all travel to Europe.

The sanctions on the country will not however include any restrictions on sales of oil to Europe, which were described as "unrealistic" by a source close to the discussions.

EU ministers must however still give the formal nod to what was agreed by diplomats and the European Commission must also propose a regulation detailing the restrictive measures.

Until Friday, officials have said that such a move would take as long as a month and a half, but now they are hoping that EU member states will be able to give their assent on Monday, with the measures in force by Thursday.

The bloc's defence ministers and Nato's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also met on Friday in Godollo, Hungary, where Libya dominated discussions. Conflicting reports emerged from the meeting regarding the nature of discussions, however.

The Nato chief said that military intervention did not come up.

"As regards the no-fly zone, it has not been discussed yet. I would, however, say that such a far-reaching approach would require a very clear international legitimacy and in particular a United Nations mandate."  

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, also in Hungary for the defence ministers' meeting, ruled out any immediate armed undertaking: "I don't think at this point there is any discussion on any sort of military action around Libya."

However, according to an AFP report, the Hungarian defence minister, said of a no-fly zone on Friday: "This is one of the options."

Earlier in the week, the US mentioned the possibility of such a course of action, naming Italy and France as possible Nato members that were best placed geographically to carry out its imposition.

Ms Ashton is also continuing to call for a "Libya-led dialogue" as a resolution to the situation in the country.

"Everything that we do, our objectives remain the same, which is to see a feasible dialogue, to move forward, for people to be able to get to the democracies they clearly want," she said.

In a separate statement, she said: "Human rights is a silver thread throughout all we do in the European External Action Service and is at the core of our response to the situations developing in Libya and beyond in the region."

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