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EU mission to enforce Libyan arms embargo extended for two more years

The extension of Operation ‘Irini’, the European Union’s year-old maritime mission to enforce the UN’s arms embargo on Libya, for another two years automatically came into effect on 26 March after member states reached an agreement a week earlier.

The scope of the mandate remains unchanged but officials said they hope the operation can collaborate with NATO as they did against migrant trafficking across the Mediterranean in previous years. NATO member Turkey, which militarily supports Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, continues to block any co-operation between the alliance and Irini.

“We had that arrangement between Operation ‘Sophia’ [Irini’s predecessor] and [NATO’s Operation] ‘Sea Guardian’ and it was very useful,” said a senior EU official who telebriefed reporters on 19 March. “It would be positive for both sides to have that again for information sharing, logistical support, and better maritime security awareness. That objective is on the table and we still hope to finalise it between the two.”

Irini currently has four ships and six aircraft. According to the EU, it carried out 2,340 ship interrogations, or hailings, during its first year and monitored 16 ports. During that time it boarded eight ships, including the inspection and diversion to Europe of Royal Diamond 7, which departed Sharjah carrying jet fuel to Benghazi in eastern Libya, which was were deemed in violation of the embargo.

The mission’s air assets spotted 194 suspicious flights and identified 25 airports or landing zones, with more than 560 satellite images analysed on its behalf by the EU’s Satellite Center in Spain. The information was shared in 22 confidential reports with the UN, according to the EU.

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