With the sixth year of its second civil war closing in on Libya leaving little premises for the stopping of the fratricidal conflict waged between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and the duo of the House of Representatives supported by the Libyan National Army (LNA) under warlord Khalifa Haftar, Poland has shown its commitment to the EU endeavours at de-escalating the conflict by signing an agreement to participate in the bloc’s newest arms-control operation “Irini.”
President Andrzej Duda signed the agreement on Wednesday. As a result, a Polish Military Contingent will participate in the EU’s mission dubbed "Irini".
According to the National Security Bureau (BNN), the Polish forces involved in the operation will consist of up to 120 soldiers, military personnel and B-28B1R aircraft.
The mission’s name “Irini” is derived from a Greek word for “peace”, which is quite telling of its aim, namely, to counteract the smuggling of arms to Libya and monitor the UN arms embargo.
Arms-control and more
“The objective is to contribute to the control of arms embargo,” EU High Representative and architect of the mission Josep Borrell said on Wednesday, adding that the scope of action would go beyond, otherwise very much sought-after by the GNA, damming of arms flow into the war-torn, oil-rich country of Libya.
“It will also retain some secondary tasks, including preventing oil smuggling and other organised crime activities, and also to continue training Libyan costs guards. But the main objective, the aim that has been pushing for the launching of this operation, is arms embargo,” stressed Mr Borrell.
Moreover, according to the agreement concluded by the EU Member States, while patrolling the Mediterranean the Polish contingent will also participate in the rescue of migrants who will be taken to Greece, from where they will be re-routed to other countries.
“Irini” mission replaces the already concluded EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia, which was established as one of the EU's responses to the migration crisis. The main task of the mission, operating on an EU mandate, was to counteract people smuggling and human trafficking in the Southern Central Mediterranean. The package also envisioned training of the Libyan coastguard and navy, and contributed to the implementation of the UN arms embargo on the high seas off the coast of Libya.
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The EU’s stake in Libya
The importance of the curbing of arms smuggling is something that the Government of National Accord, a governmental body recognised by the UN as the rightful representative of Libya’s affairs and its people, has been stressing for a long time and this should come as no surprise given the fact that the Libyan National Army of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has been in control of the majority of Libyan territory, not to mention its sallies at the GNA’s capital of Tripolis.
Poland has been supporting the GNA hosting its embassy in Warsaw and thus standing in line with most of the EU member states who felt the GNA a better partner than the belligerent commander Khalifa Haftar. Regarding Haftar, this is probably due to the fact that, before rebelling against Muammar Gaddafi, he had been the Colonel’s officer and army man. Also Haftar’s past which made some parties to believe that he had ties with the US secret services became an obscure place into which some EU states decided not to venture.
The “Irini” mission is also attractive to the EU, especially Italy, as it is designed to prevent the influx of unidentified migrants and make the overall handling of North Africa-outbound migration more orderly. While hoping the operation would prove conducive to the cessation of the Libyan conflict, the EU also hopes that it would stabilise Libya which has been proven to be the shadowy gateway for Europe-bound African migration. In effect, with Libya stabilised, the expectation is that the migrant flow would be better monitored and diminished.