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EU agrees on new mission to enforce Libya arms embargo

Foreign ministers announced new operation in the Mediterranean to uphold a UN arms embargo that is routinely flouted
Italy's foreign minister said that the mission would include a naval element, which had been a sticking point for some EU member states (AFP)

EU foreign ministers said on Monday that they have agreed to launch a new mission in the Mediterranean Sea to enforce a United Nations arms embargo on Libya that is currently routinely flouted.

"We all agreed to create a mission to block the entry of arms into Libya," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said.

Di Maio said that the mission would include a naval element, which had been a sticking point for some member states.

The news was confirmed by his German and Austrian counterparts, AFP reported.

Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) are battling fighters from eastern commander Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).

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Haftar's forces launched an offensive in April to take the capital Tripoli, but are being held back by the GNA forces.

'The arms embargo has become a become a joke'

Libya has been under an arms embargo since the 2011 uprising that led to the removal and killing of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The arms embargo has been regularly violated by different groups, according to the United Nations.

Since 2014, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have provided the LNA with military equipment including aircraft and helicopters, while Moscow has provided mercenaries.

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The support has helped the Haftar gain the upper hand in Libya's eight-year conflict, according to previous UN reports.

The GNA is being supported by Qatar and Turkey, which has sent as many as 2,000 fighters from Syria.

On Sunday, Stephanie Williams, the UN deputy special envoy for Libya, said the UN-backed arms embargo had become a joke and the country’s financial position was deteriorating rapidly, after foreign ministers met in Munich to try to enforce a ceasefire between the two warring sides.

Last week, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for enforcement of the arms embargo and a ceasefire.

Williams said: “The arms embargo has become a become a joke. We all really need to step up here. 

"It’s complicated because there are violations by land, sea and air, but it needs to be monitored and there needs to be accountability.”

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