The United Nations is expanding its search for illegal weapons on the high seas off Libya

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN Security Council on Friday passed a resolution extending powers for countries and regional organizations to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected of violating the UN arms embargo on the in to disown a troubled North African nation.

The vote on the French-backed resolution was 14-0, with Russia abstaining. The summary decision extends the inspection authorization by one year.

The surveillance effort has been conducted since March 2020 by a European Union mission called Operation Irini, the Greek word for “peace.” The EU said at the beginning that it had “its core task in the implementation of the UN arms embargo through the use of air, satellite and sea means”.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Friday that when Irini started doing it, Russia hoped the inspections would help reduce the illegal arms trade “and thereby promote the long-awaited political solution to the protracted conflict in Libya.”

“However, this never happened,” he said, explaining that Operation Irini and its predecessor, Operation Sophia, “had no successful cases of intercepting contraband.”

Nebenzia said Russia will monitor Irini’s activities over the next 12 months and “we will focus on whether the operation is efficient in stemming the flow of illicit arms and respects the law of the sea.”

In its first two years of operation, Operation Irini claims to have surveyed more than 6,200 ships, conducted nearly 250 visits (aka “friendly approaches”) to merchant ships and conducted 22 inspections. An illegal cargo ship was seized, preventing an illegal export of jet fuel for military aircraft to Libya, sources said.

Irini said it regularly monitors transportation activities at 16 Libyan ports and oil facilities and 25 airports and airstrips.

Oil-rich Libya was in turmoil after a NATO-backed insurgency toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. It was then split between rival governments – one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Hifter, and a UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli. Each side is supported by various militias and foreign powers.

In April 2019, Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey increased its military support for the United Nations-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

An October 2020 ceasefire agreement resulted in agreement on a caretaker government in early February 2021, and elections were set for the final December 24 to unite the country. But they were canceled and the country now has rival governments with two Libyans claiming to be prime ministers.

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