Category Archives: Maghreb

COVID19: former Libya PM Jibril died

Libyan former Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril died in the Egyptian capital Cairo from COVID-19 complications at the age of 68, al-Wasat news website reported on April 5.

Jibril actually died on Saturday late night, days after his infection with the novel coronavirus,” the source added.

The late Libyan official, whose death was officially announced on April 5, spent 10 days at an isolation hospital in Cairo before passing away, according to the diplomats.
Jibril was the head of the National Forces Alliance, a coalition of Libyan liberal parties formed in 2012, a year after the ouster and killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

EU: Libya arms embargo mission

“The European Union 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.

“The Council today adopted a decision launching Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI as from 1 April 2020.

“IRINI, (Greek for “peace”), 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.

“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 Council 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.”

Libya: Borrell focus on arms embargo

EU top diplomat Josep Borrell participated in a G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that took place via video-teleconference call on Wednesday, 25 March.

Addressing Libyan conflict Borrel stressed the urgency of turning the temporary cessation of hostilities for humanitarian purposes into a full ceasefire. He reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to support the UN-led process and the implementation of the Berlin declaration and reiterated the need for all parties to respect the arms embargo. The EU is working to deploy a mission in the Central Mediterranean to ensure the respect for the UN arms embargo.

#Tunis: explosion next to US Embassy

A suicide bomber acts in Tunisian capital Tunis. The attack took place opposite the U.S. embassy.

DEVELOPING STORY:

12:50 AMENDED “The British Embassy in Tunis is urgently seeking further information following reports of a suicide bombing near the US Embassy #Tunis. If you’re in the area, remain vigilant and follow advice of local security authorities” the issued alert reads.

Pictures of aftermath of the suicide bombing circulate in socical media:

Media reports two dead and five injured, but at the moment it is not clear if the assailant’s death is also included.

13:30 AMENDED: “Emergency personnel are responding to an explosion that occurred near the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. Please avoid the area and monitor local media for updates” US Embassy in Tunis wrote on Twiter.

Borrell calls Libyans to stop hostilities

“Escalation of violence in Tripoli, including Tuesday´s attacks in the port, is causing further human suffering and civilian casualties. This needs to stop as a matter of urgency. All parties need to fully respect the truce they agreed to, refrain from any further military action, and re-engage in a political dialogue for a solution to the crisis in Libyareads the statement of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, addressing deteriorating situation in Libya.

“We need to keep the momentum created by the Berlin process and the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 2510 (2020). Talks in Geneva under UN leadership should resume as quickly as possible, so that the parties move towards swift de-escalation and commit to a sustainable ceasefire.

“The European Union has been and remains strongly committed to support the UN-led peace process in Libya and the efforts by the UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé to implement the Berlin declaration, as the only way out of the Libyan crisis.”

Meanwhile the Greek delegation walked out of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels on Feburary 19 in protest at the stance of acting president Attila Mesterhazy.

The incident took place as the five-member Greek delegation, which is made up of lawmakers from the country’s main political parties, were raising the issue of the contentious Turkey-Libya maritime boundaries agreement and Turkey’s violations of international law and Greek sovereign rights.

EU new aero-naval mission to Libya

EU Foreign Ministers discussed the latest developments in Libya, following up on the Foreign Affairs Councils from 10 and 20 January. During the previous two meetings, the Council had expressed concern over the aggravating crisis in the area, agreeing on the need for EU engagement to prevent further escalation.

The EU top diplomat announced the end of Sophia naval mission, and start of a new one with a purpose of monitoring arms embargo in East Libya.

 

The European Union is embarking on an air and naval mission, with a land component, to block arms and the transport of arms to Libya, said the Borrell announced at press-conference in Brussels.

The mission, he said, will be deployed on the eastern part of the Libyan coast, where arms trafficking is concentrated. Half a dozen planes and boats are expected to participate.

The 27 member-states, worried about the worsening crisis in Libya, agreed last month on the need for European mobilization in order to avoid a further escalation of the situation.

But Austrian reluctance slowed any advance, Vienna fearing that the European vessels deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean would encourage African  migrants to risk their lives, trying to reach the European shores, crossing Mediterranean,  aggravating already dramatic situation.

Borrell did not comment on ongoing military cooperation between Tripoli administration and Al-Sarraj, and Turkey, intensifying its presence in the region.

Libya talks launched in Geneva

The U.N. envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said there was a “genuine will to start negotiating” between rival military factions as they planned to meet for the first time for talks in Geneva aimed at establishing a lasting ceasefire.(Image: archive)

The Geneva talks bring together five senior military officers from Libyan National Army led by Marshall Haftar and five from militia aligned with Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, chaired by Fayez al-Sarraj.

“We started yesterday (3/02/2020) to discuss with them a long list of points on our agenda, starting on an attempt to transform the truce into a more solid one, less often violated by either side and also to transform that truce into a real agreement on a lasting ceasefire,” Salame said.

Both rivals relay on foreign support in their bid for power. While Marshall Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and Russia, the experts and diplomats claim, the GNA is openly supported militarily by Ankara, declaring it would enter the combat if attempts to overtake Tripoli persist.

Hundreds of militants from the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria are moving to Libya to participate in hostilities, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
The second aspect, associated with the risks and threats arising from the Idlib de-escalation zone, is the movement of hundreds of militants, including the Nusrovites and Heyat Tahrir al-Sham fighters, to Libya to participate in building up hostilities in this country,” – Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Spain-Morocco territorial waters talks

Foreign ministers of Spain and Morocco announced their countries would hold talks about overlapping areas of ocean that they both claim rights to in the North Atlantic.
The Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya (pictured) traveled to Morocco on January 24 amid diplomatic tension over Rabat’s attempt to take control of waters close to Canary Islands.

The territorial waters Morocco has claimed include the coast off Western Sahara, a territory that has been contested between Rabat and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front since the end of Spanish colonial era in 1975.

Morocco’s parliament passed two bills this week to give domestic legal grounds to a coastal area the North African country already controls, causing concern about Canary Islands, where the Madrid warned of overlaps with Spanish territorial waters.

Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita said that defining territorial waters was a “sovereign right” and that his country aimed to upgrade domestic law in compliance with the UN law of the sea convention.

“In case of overlaps, international law requires states to negotiate,” said Bourita following talks with his Spanish peer, Arancha Gonzalez Laya.

Morocco rejects unilateral acts and “fait accompli,” he said, adding that Spain was a “strategic partner” and Morocco’s largest trading partner.

Gonzalez Laya said Morocco’s willingness to negotiate “reassures the Canary Islands”.

Morocco is a source of stability for Spain,” Arancha Gonzalez Laya said, pointing at “close cooperation” in the fight against jihadists and illegal migration.

Libya LNA shuts down oil exports

The Libyan National Oil Corporation will lose $55 million daily due to shutting down oil shipment at ports, RIA Novosti reported, citing a statement by the company.

According to the corporation, daily losses in crude oil production will amount to 800 thousand barrels, which corresponds to USD55 million.

The ports of Al-Barik, Ras Lanuf, Al-Harik, Zaytuniya and Al-Sadr were blocked by order of the commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar.

The country in terms of oil reserves ranks 9th in the world with 48.4 billion barrels. Before the overthrow of the national leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya produced about 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, and it was one of the main oil exporters in southern Europe.

With the interruption of oil exports, the rivalry between two Libyan centres of power in Tripoli and Benghazi escalates to new height.

At present Libya has a world-recognized Government of National Accord, led by a Fayez al-Saraj, a descendant from a prominent Turkish family, who resides in Tripoli, and the Interim government, which is headed by Abdullah Abdurrahaman at-Thani, supported by Tobruk Parliament and Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been undertaking siege of Tripoli since April 2019, claiming the need to liberate if from terrorists.

Michel statement on Libya

“I would like to thank Chancellor Merkel, and the organisers of today’s conference, for your tireless work at this critical moment in the Libyan crisis” reads the statement of the EU Council president Charles Michel, issued after the Berlin Conferenece on Libya, which took place on Sunday, January 19.

It is encouraging to see the most influential regional and international partners come together in support of the UN-led efforts to find a political solution to the Libyan crisis.

As the EU has consistently stated, the only sustainable solution is through UN mediation efforts that put the needs of all Libyan people to the forefront.

I wish to reaffirm today the commitment of the European Union to the immediate cessation of hostilities in Libya in the interest of stability in its immediate neighborhood. We support the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya, and this in the interest of regional stability and prosperity – this is vital for Europe.

We have supported German-led mediation efforts launched last year in support of the UN peace process. I would like to pay special tribute to UN Special Representative Salame, who, under the authority of Secretary General Guterres, has made every effort to bring the parties to the negotiations table in order to find a political solution to the conflict.

We would like to encourage cooperation with the African Union and the League of Arab States.

In recent weeks, High Representative Borrell and I have worked to support the conclusion of a ceasefire and for the relaunch of the peace process.

We are committed to play an important role in the follow-up to the Berlin Conference. We represent Libya’s main economic partner and primary investor. Libyan youths look to Europe when they study abroad. Libya’s long term prosperity depends on these economic and cultural ties.

That is why the EU is gearing up to implement the outcome of the Berlin Conference. We are ready to mobilise our means where they are most needed.

In the short term, our contribution to the follow-up to this Conference, we are reflecting on how best to contribute to the monitoring of the ceasefire and the respect of the arms embargo. On the arms embargo, the EU was the only regional organisation to enforce it after 2016. We intend to continue that effort, working with our partners around this table, to cover all the corridors where the embargo is being violated.

In the longer term, as conditions allow, we hope to make progress in other areas of the proposed Conclusions:

political – to support a future national conference, the organisation of elections, and possible work on the constitution;
economic – actions focused on capacity building in national institutions, such as the National Oil Company, Central Bank and Libyan Investment Authority;
security sector reform (through our Common Security and Defence Policy instruments, including the existing civilian mission EUBAM);
and human rights – the EU wishes to bring its expertise.
The EU is ready to host a Senior Officials Meeting of the International Follow-up Committee tasked with implementing the Conference Conclusions. And we are ready to play an active role in the technical working groups created by this process.

Now it is time for all members of the international community to work together to consolidate the ceasefire and respect the UN arms embargo and also preserve the unity of Libya’s financial institutions on which the unity of the country itself depends.

In the past, we have shown unity on a number of these objectives. For example, thwarting illegal attempts to purchase oil outside the official circuit. In other areas, we should have done better, in particular, on the arms embargo, as highlighted by the UN in its reports.

Moving forward, we should also avoid unilateral actions, such as the signing of agreements, which exacerbate the conflict. I am aiming at the actions that are incompatible with international law and which create a pretext for external interference in the Libyan conflict. The European Union has taken an unambiguous position on this, with the conclusions of the European Council on 12 December 2019.

Today we are committed to the Berlin process and the UN mediation efforts that put the needs of the Libyan people first. Today is an important step, but much work remains to be done. We are ready to contribute.

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