What's In Blue

Libya Sanctions: Vote on a Resolution

Tomorrow afternoon (5 June), the Security Council president (France) is expected to announce the result of the voting on a resolution renewing for twelve months an authorisation first put into effect in resolution 2292 of 14 June 2016. The current authorisation expires on 10 June.


The authorisation is for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya, bound to or from the country, that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo. The authorisation also allows for member states to seize and dispose of arms and ammunition found during the inspection of these vessels. The aim is to support the implementation of the Council’s arms embargo on Libya. It was last renewed by resolution 2473 of 10 June 2019.

Over a year ago, General Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive towards Tripoli, the capital, against the internationally recognised and UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based there. In his 15 May report on the implementation of resolution 2473 (S/2020/393), the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern about the increase in breaches of the arms embargo since the assault started. In that regard, he referred to commitments made by the participants of the Berlin Conference on Libya on 19 January, the conclusions of which the Council endorsed in resolution 2510 of 12 February. The conference participants committed themselves “to unequivocally and fully respect and implement the arms embargo” and called “on all international actors to do the same”. During her 19 May briefing to the Council, the Acting Special Representative and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Stephanie Williams, referred to continued “blatant violations of the arms embargo” and to the nature of the Libyan conflict as a “pure proxy war”. The Secretary-General, in his report, also noted that the illicit outflow of weapons has supported terrorist groups in their expansion of influence in the region. In this context, he stressed that the implementation of the arms embargo and the inspection regime are critical. Reports by the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee indicate that a number of countries, including Council members, are involved in breaches of UN sanctions, including the arms embargo.

The sole entity implementing the Council’s authorisation is the EU, via a military operation. First, it was the EU military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED Operation SOPHIA), which ended on 31 March. Differences arose between EU member states over the role of the operation in respect of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya. This resulted in the temporary suspension of the deployment of operation Sophia’s naval assets in 2019. The EU launched a follow-on mission, the military operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED IRINI), on 1 April. Operation IRINI will have naval, aerial and satellite assets to implement its mandate. Its primary task is the implementation of the arms embargo, a secondary task being to disrupt “the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks”. Patrols by operation IRINI started on 4 May.


During its 2019-2020 term as a non-permanent member of the Council, Germany chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and shares the pen with the UK on the Libya sanctions file. In the case of this reauthorisation, Germany was in charge of the drafting.

It seems that Germany circulated the zero draft of the resolution on 22 May to all Council members, proposing the continuation of the existing mandate, as had been the practice in the last three years. The only substantive addition made by the penholder was a new preambular paragraph reaffirming resolution 2510 of 12 February and recalling the Berlin Conference on Libya.

One virtual round of negotiations among Council experts took place on 27 May. Apparently, an EU representative took part at the beginning of the session in order to answer questions about operation Irini. Following a request by Russia, a closed VTC on the operation was held on 2 June, during which Charles Fries, the Deputy Secretary General for Common Security and Defence Policy of the European External Action Service, briefed Council members. (On 8 April, the Council had held a closed VTC on operation Irini, also requested by Russia.) On 3 June, the penholder put a slightly amended second draft of the text under silence until 4 June, which included an additional preambular paragraph containing language from resolution 2510 “recognising the important role of neighbouring countries and regional organisations”. The silence procedure was not broken. On the same day, the draft was put in blue and voting started in the afternoon.

It seems that Russia was the only Council member showing fundamental scepticism around the renewal of the authorisation. At different Council meetings, Russia had apparently raised the question of whether operation Irini’s mandate was still within the scope of the Council’s authorisation. The EU and its member states argued that it is, and so did the Secretary-General. It appears that during the 27 May meeting, Russia suggested the authorisation be renewed for six instead of twelve months. The draft in blue retains the renewal of the authorisation for twelve months.

Tags: , ,
Sign up for What's In Blue emails