The EU has responded favorably to a request from the new UN-backed Libyan unity government for security assistance – especially in managing migration, border monitoring, and police capacity building.
EU officials stopped short, however, of committing the EU to operate on the Libyan coast and in Libyan territorial waters to block people smugglers. The EU said it would be more effective to build up the capacity of the Libyan security forces to deal with the issue.
Business Insider reports that the UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, in avideo conference with EU foreign and defense ministers, appealed for help to fight ISIS and rebuild the country, which has been in a state of disintegration since the death of Col. Qaddafi in November 2011.
The video conference did include references to the deployment of Western military units to Libya, either for the purpose of training the Libyan military or for directly engaging ISIS.
U.S. and U.K. Special Forces have been operating in Libya since last year – before the establishment of the unity government last month – in training and equipping various militias to fight ISIS.
Analysts note that the Libyan government is walking a tightrope, because it cannot appear as a creature of the EU or UN.
The new government was supposed to be approved by the Libyan parliament on Monday, but came up short in the first round of voting.
“We are ready to support the government,” said the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who chaired a meeting of more than fifty ministers in Luxembourg. “Work can now start,” she told a news conference, adding that the EU was ready to provide €100 million in financial support.
Asked if an EU naval mission should operate in Libyan waters, the Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, said: “Yes, it is very urgent.” Mogherini said EU generals had briefed her that such a move was feasible for Europe’s naval forces.
Sweden said that if the mission of the EU naval forces was also to stop arms smuggling than the deployment might also require a UN Security Council resolution.