The warning by Saqr Al-Jaroushi came as European Foreign Ministers agreed yesterday that they will launch a naval operation to combat people bringing thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe usually Italy or Malta. The European Union has yet to gain consent for operations within Libyan coastal waters from the internationally recognized government. Much of the coast is in areas in the west of Libya controlled by the Tripoli or GNC government. The EU does not have their permission either. Al-Jaroushi said: “Any vessel found in Libyan waters without previous cooperation or permission will be targeted by the air force.” The Tripoli or National Salvation Government(SG), as it calls itself, also expressed concern about the plan. Given that the EU expressed concern about obtaining consent for the operation from the two governments, it is surprising that it would go ahead even on a limited basis.
The Salvation Government Ministry of the Interior issued a press release on the issue:
The Ministry indicated that the EU’s operation could be of bad effects since there was no previous coordination with the SG and because of Libya’s status quo, pointing out that Libya will not shoulder responsibility for financial commitments to the operation or for the hazards facing the immigrants’ lives neither in the sea nor in shelter centers on Libya’s land. Unlike the Tobruk government, the Tripoli government did not threaten air attacks against any ship that entered their coastal waters.
The press release called for explaining the kind of measures that the operation will follow regarding the interception of the immigrants..There should be some effective measures that guarantee the eradication of this phenomenon taking into account that Libya is currently suffering from a number of crises, let alone that any operation must adhere to Libya’s sovereignty by asking for approval from the specialized authorities.” The Ministry concluded.
The EU initiative will apparently be limited to intelligence-gathering by submarines, warships, drones, and helicopters since it wants UN support for wider operations and also permission from Libyan authorities. The wider plan is to disrupt the trafficking business, and to capture and destroy their ships, perhaps even in Libyan territorial waters.
The UN is attempting to have the two rival Libyan governments agree to a unity government and a ceasefire. There is no news emanating from the UN on what is happening. The UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, hoped to have an agreement by the beginning of Ramadan that started last Thursday. The Tripoli government complained that Leon had gone to Misrata to talk with militia commanders there without getting permission from the government. It appears that there may be a split within Libya Dawn with a new force being assigned to provide security to Tripoli and the surrounding area. It is quite foolish and unethical for Leon to apparently try to deal with the military without the permission of the government. The head of the Tobruk armed forces, Khalifa Haftar has said many times that he will never sign a cease fire with Tripoli militia or negotiate with them. There is no word of Leon talking to Haftar. In May 2014, Haftar launched Operation Dignity to defeat Islamist militias in Libya, including those defending the rival government. The operation continues to this day. It is supported by the Tobruk government.