EU launches Operation IRINI to enforce Libya arms embargo, ends Operation Sophia
By Sami Zaptia.
London, 1 April 2020:
The European Union announced yesterday that it has launched a new operation to enforce the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya. The operation is officially entitled Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI. IRINI is Greek for peace.
In its official statement, the EU said that it is stepping up its efforts to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya, thereby contributing to the peace process in the country, through the launch of a new CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) military operation in the Mediterranean.
Commenting on the operation, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and President of the Council said that only political solutions and the full respect of the UN arms embargo will bring a solution to the Libyan crisis. But diplomacy cannot succeed unless it is backed by action. This operation will be essential and a clear contribution to promoting peace in our immediate neighbourhood through a permanent ceasefire.
The EU said that Operation IRINI will have as its core task the implementation of the UN arms embargo through the use of aerial, satellite and maritime assets. In particular the mission will be able to carry out inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2292 (2016).
As secondary tasks, EUNAVFOR MED IRINI will also:
- monitor and gather information on illicit exports from Libya of petroleum, crude oil and refined petroleum products
- contribute to the capacity building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy in law enforcement tasks at sea
- contribute to the disruption of the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks through information gathering and patrolling by planes
IRINI will be led by Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini as EU Operation Commander, and its headquarters will be located in Rome, Italy.
The mandate of Operation IRINI will initially last until 31 March 2021, and will be under the close scrutiny of EU Member States, that will exercise political control and strategic direction through the Political and Security Committee (PSC), under the responsibility of the Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
In parallel with the launch of Operation IRINI, the existing EUNAVFOR MED operation in the Mediterranean, SOPHIA, will permanently cease its activities.
The EU recalled that participants at the Berlin Conference on Libya on 19 January 2020 committed in particular to fully respect and implement the arms embargo established by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1970 (2011), 2292 (2016) and 2473 (2019).
Against this background, the EU reached a political agreement to launch a new operation in the Mediterranean, aimed at implementing the UN arms embargo on Libya by using aerial, satellite and maritime assets on 17 February 2020.
EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA was launched on 22 June 2015 as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to migration, and will cease permanently on 31 March.