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Italian and German navies detained ship delivering fuel to Haftar’s fighter jets

ROME, (BM) – At 7 am on 10 September the German frigate Hamburg assigned to Operation EUNAVFOR MED Irini blocked and inspected the freighter Royal Diamond 7 in international waters about 150 km north of the Libyan city of Derna (Cyrenaica) on suspicion that the its cargo violated the arms embargo on Libya, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.

Read more: Italian warships keep an eye on the Turkish fleet off the coast of Libya

The command of the operation led by Rome by Admiral Fabio Agostini announced that “the ship, reported by the UN Panel of Experts for Libya, had left the port of Sharjah in the Arab Emirates towards Benghazi in Libya with a cargo of jet fuel (JP) presumably destined for military purposes “, that is, the air forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) of General Khalifa Haftar which enjoy the support of about twenty Russian Mig 29 and Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft managed in all probability from the private military company Wagner.

The statement states that “this fuel is considered as military material by the UN and therefore UN Security Council Resolution 2292 (2016) on the arms embargo on Libya, confirmed and extended by resolution 2526 ( 2020). The German ship Hamburg, supported by the Italian ship Margottini, flagship of Operation Irini, from which Admiral Ettore Socci – commander at sea of ​​the forces assigned to the European Operation – conducted the activity, prevented the merchant from accessing Libyan territorial waters and is diverting it to a port of the European Union for further checks and investigations ”.

This is the first boarding carried out by the forces of the EU operation since May 4, the day of the start of activities at sea: since then the Irini assets have interrogated 650 suspicious ships (hailing) and have carried out 12 visits to merchant vessels (friendly approach) to obtain information on illicit trafficking in the central Mediterranean. Irini – thanks also to the work of intelligence and satellite images of the EU SatCen, which provided over 230 albums of satellite images – monitors traffic in over 10 ports and landing points and 25 airports and runways in Libya .

In these four months, it not only monitored suspicious ships, but also reported the presence of 80 flights of interest to and from Libya, helping to implement the arms embargo and control of illicit oil trafficking with 14 reports, delivered to the UN Panel of Experts.

The reports concern both sides of the conflict in Libya but it is clear that the operation suffers from a difficult political context. In June the Greek frigate Spetsai, at the time the only ship assigned to the EU fleet, signaled but did not attempt to forcibly block the cargo Cirkin loaded with weapons directed to the forces of Tripoli and which shuttled several times with the port of Misurata under the escorting three frigates and corvettes of the Ankara Navy.

Read more: Europe doesn’t know what to do with Turkish arms smuggling to Libya

Commenting on the arrival in the port of Misrata of the Tanzanian-flagged merchant ship loaded with weapons and ammunition, the spokesman of the EU Commission Peter Stano admitted the impossibility of Operation Irini to impose an inspection on ships.

On 10 June, off the coast of Libya, the French frigate Courbet (F-712 class La Fayette in the photo below) was subjected to three ‘radar illuminations’ by the Turkish frigate Oruç Reis (F-245 Barbaros class type Meko 200TN) while trying to get closer to Cirkin whose activities were in clear violation of the UN embargo.

Courbet was not assigned to Irini but to NATO’s Sea Guardian operation from which Paris suspended its participation following the lack of support from the allies in this affair.

From what has emerged so far, the embarrassment of NATO is evident, grappling with the tug-of-war between two member states such as Greece and Turkey, to which is added the ineffectiveness of the EU divided between pro-Turks and pro-Greeks which is also reflected on Irini, not by chance kept to a minimum of forces and with the risk of appearing inclined to sympathies for one or the other Libyan faction (and their respective sponsors) depending on the countries that are part of it or have the leadership.

Already in June it was clear that Irini could not use force to block ships suspected of violating the embargo escorted by warships. In that case someone pointed out that France (which today has no ships assigned to Irini, a mission composed only of the two German and Italian units mentioned) is a direct opponent of Turkey and an increasingly close ally of Greece and Cyprus.

Read more: Greek warship stormed a Turkish ship loaded with weapons for Libya

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