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EU detains ship carrying fuel from UAE on suspicion of breaking Libya arms embargo

The vessel, thought to have been heading to Benghazi, has been diverted to an undisclosed EU port for further checks, EU authorities say
Irini forces board the merchant vessel Royal Diamond 7 just after dawn on 10 September
EU military forces board the merchant vessel Royal Diamond 7 just after dawn on 10 September (Carlo Feola/IRINI)

A merchant ship carrying jet fuel from the United Arab Emirates has been detained by European Union naval authorities on suspicion it was violating a United Nations arms embargo on Libya, EU officials have announced.  

Two frigates - one German and one Italian - stopped the merchant vessel Royal Diamond 7 just after dawn on Thursday in international waters, 150km north of the Libyan city of Derna, according to a statement released by the EU mission charged with implementing the arms embargo. 

The EU military mission, named Irini, operates in the Mediterranean to stop arms from reaching either side of the warring factions in Libya.

The Royal Diamond 7 had sailed from the port of Sharjah in the UAE and was heading to Benghazi in Libya, the mission's statement said, adding that its fuel cargo was "likely to be used for military purposes".

"This fuel is considered as 'military material' by the UN and therefore" violates the embargo, the statement said. 

The ship was then diverted to an undisclosed EU port for further checks.

One country, two sides

Libya has been split since 2014 between areas controlled by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and territory held by commander Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), based in Benghazi. 

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Despite a UN embargo on sending weapons to Libya, Turkey signed a military cooperation deal with the GNA and has sent drones, armoured vehicles, Syrian mercenaries and military officers to support its efforts to fight off Haftar's offensive. 

Late last month, the Turkish government strengthened its involvement in Libya by signing a protocol with the GNA and Qatar, which established a tripartite coordination centre for military training and cooperation. 

Meanwhile, the UAE, Egypt and Russia back Haftar, who has suffered a string of military losses this year. All three countries have also been accused of breaking the UN arms embargo. 

The United States has repeatedly warned Russia in particular against its involvement in the conflict, publishing satellite imagery photos on several occasions of what Washington says is definitive evidence of Moscow's continued involvement via a paramilitary contractor known as the Wagner Group. Russia has continuously denied the allegations.  

The UN Security Council imposed the embargo on arms to stop the military confrontation and facilitate the peace process in the country, and the EU is enforcing the embargo through its Irini operation.