Wednesday

30th Nov 2022

UN puts forward Libya deal, plans to back EU naval mission

  • Italian coastguard rescues migrant family (Photo: iom.int)

After months of talks, the UN, on Thursday evening (8 October), presented a plan for a national unity government in Libya.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is expected to authorise, on Friday, EU military action against people smugglers off the Libyan coast.

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The Libya plan, presented by UN special envoy Bernardino Leon after talks in Morocco, names six candidates to chair a unity cabinet representing the two main parties in conflict.

Power in Libya has been disputed between an elected parliament based in Tobruk and an unofficial government in the capital Tripoli. Various armed groups also control smaller chunks of territory.

EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini welcomed Leon’s proposal as "an important step" and called on "the Libyan parties to endorse this deal which meets the aspirations of the Libyan people, to take the path of peace and prosperity".

The UN plan still has to be endorsed and implemented by players on the ground, some of them strongly opposed to any power sharing.

"There is no time to waste," Mogherini said in her statement, adding that the EU is ready to offer "immediate substantial political support" and €100 million in aid.


The EU has pushed for the deal as a way of stabilising Libya and improving control over its maritime borders, from where thousands of migrants embark on sea crossings to Europe.

More than 130,000 have undertaken the journey this year alone.

Resolution

The EU’s anti-smuggler naval operation, at first called EUnavfor Med, but now renamed Operation Sophia, after a migrant child born at sea, was launched in June.

It has so far conducted surveillance on migrant-smuggling operations from Libya.

But phase two of the mission - "boarding, search, seizure and diversion, on the high seas, of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking” - began on Wednesday, the EU said.

The operation was launched with no UN green light, which is not obligatory as it is conducted in international waters.

But the EU has been in talks since April to get UN political backing.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon first opposed the idea, saying that "destroying the boats is not the appropriate way".

Several states, including UN veto-holder Russia also opposed the plan.

But Russia, as well as the African members of the Security Council - Angola, Chad, and Nigeria - lifted their opposition to a British-drafted resolution after the Tobruk authorities, which are recognised by the UN, sent a letter saying they supported the text.

The resolution that should be put to the vote Friday authorises, for one year, the EU to board, inspect, seize, and destroy ships.

Migrants found on board will be sent to Italy for registration, while smugglers will stand trial.

Opinion

EU should help, not worsen, the refugee crisis in Libya

As MEPs debate the situation in Libya in the plenary for the first time in four years, the International Rescue Committee's Libya director says the EU must act now to prevent the country spiralling further into chaos.

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