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UAE delivered weapons to Libya's Haftar despite UN embargo

More than 150 flights ferried arms to Haftar's territory between January and April this year, according to unpublished UN report
The UAE dispatched some 150 military flights using Russian-made cargo planes to eastern Libya and western Egypt
UAE dispatched 150 military flights using Russian-made cargo planes to eastern Libya and western Egypt (AFP/File photo)

The United Arab Emirates continued to supply military equipment to Libya's eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar despite a United Nations embargo on weapons transfers to the country, according to a confidential UN report.

The UAE made more than 150 flights to regions controlled by Haftar, mostly in eastern Libya, between January and April in what experts are calling an attempt to prop up the rebel leader's campaign against the UN-recognised Tripoli government.

In particular, flights to Haftar-controlled zones increased during his failed assault on Tripoli earlier this year, a diplomat with access to the unpublished report that was prepared by a UN expert panel told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

UAE-supplied weapons, the report says, have proven crucial in Haftar's campaign and in his takeover of parts of eastern Libya.

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Weapons continued to flow even after Haftar's push into Tripoli failed, the diplomat said.

In addition to planes, the UAE has also been accused of using ships to ferry jet fuel to Libya, allegedly for military purposes.

According to the report, military supplies from the UAE "peaked" in late 2019 and early 2020. This came to an end in June after pro-government forces, supported by Turkey, pushed Haftar's forces away from the capital.

The UAE dispatched some 150 military flights using Russian-made cargo planes to eastern Libya and western Egypt, according to the UN report.

Libya has been wracked by violence since 2011 when a Nato-backed uprising overthrew longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, multiple foreign powers have become involved in the country.

Following disputed elections in 2014, the country has been divided between competing administrations, with the UN-recognised GNA supported by Turkey, while the UAE and Egypt have backed forces loyal to Haftar. 

'Arms transfers have been extensive'

Last week, a top UN official warned that the oil-rich country was at "a decisive turning point", with foreign backers of its rival governments pouring in weapons - and the misery of its people compounded by the coronavirus pandemic that appears to be "spiralling out of control".

According to the report: "Since the more direct engagement by Turkey in 2019 and the United Arab Emirates in January 2020, arms transfers to Libya by those two member states have been extensive, blatant and with complete disregard to the sanctions measures.

"The panel thus finds that Turkey and the United Arab Emirates were in repeated non-compliance" with the arms embargo, which has been in force since 2011.

The EU has made some effort to punish countries that violate the embargo.

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Last week the EU sanctioned one Turkish and one Jordanian shipping company for taking military materials to Libya.

It also sanctioned a Kazakh airline and Sigma Airlines, both of which had been used by the UAE to fly weapons to Libya.

It is believed the the UAE used a network of private companies to deliver arms to Libya. That way, researchers said, they could stay off the UN's radar.

One such example was when the UAE military allegedly used private Dubai-based company AAL Group to order seven Russian-made Mi-24 attack helicopters from the Czech Republic in 2015.

In 2016, a commander close to Haftar purchased 11 Mi-24 helicopters, including seven with the same serial number as those purchased by the UAE from the Czech Republic, according to the Journal.

It is unclear if the Czech-purchased helicopters were used in Libya, and the Emirati government invited Czech representatives to see the helicopters being used in the UAE as proof they would remain locally used.