Borrell suggests EU military mission to protect cease-fire in Libya

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Josep Borrell during a press conference in Brussels | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

‘Nobody controls anything there,’ EU foreign policy chief says.

The EU should consider sending troops to Libya to enforce a cease-fire in the North African country, the blocs’s foreign policy chief said.

“If there is a cease-fire in Libya, then the EU must be prepared to help implement and monitor this cease-fire — possibly also with soldiers, for example as part of an EU mission,” Josep Borrell told German weekly Spiegel in an interview published Friday.

“Or take the arms embargo,” he added. “We Europeans have been entrusted by the United Nations to enforce it. In reality, the arms embargo is ineffective. Nobody controls anything there.”

Borrell’s proposal comes ahead of Libya peace talks in Berlin on Sunday, which will bring together representatives from the region as well as leaders from the likes of France and Russia. In addition, there is a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, at which Libya will be discussed.

It is up to EU foreign ministers to decide on EU military missions. So far they have shied away from putting boots on the ground in Libya, which has been torn apart by a civil war that also involves mercenaries paid by Turkey and Russia. Ankara backs the leader of the internationally recognized Libyan administration, Fayez al-Sarraj, while Moscow supports General Khalifa Haftar.

“In the past six months Turkey and Russia have gained massive influence in Libya, and they are using it,” Borrell said. “Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have at least succeeded in preparing a temporary cease-fire between the hostile parties in Libya. This is potentially good news for the people of Libya.”

However, he noted, “it is not necessarily a confirmation of great EU influence. Now, at the Libya conference in Berlin on Sunday, it is important to take decisive steps forward in this process.”

Erdoğan wrote Saturday in an op-ed for POLITICO that the EU should work with Turkey on a military solution for Libya because the bloc was “less interested in providing military support to Libya.”

The foreign policy chief warned that the Sahel region south of Libya was “a powder keg,” and said that 700,000 people from countries such as Mali, Niger or Burkina Faso had already fled to Libya. He cautioned that these people could start fleeing to the EU if the civil war reaches the capital, Tripoli.

Borrell also argued that the EU should change its treaties to scrap the principle of unanimity in foreign policy decisions, so that the bloc could react faster and more decisively to challenges across the world.

“I have conducted many negotiations in different EU bodies over the past 20 years — and wherever the principle of unanimity applies, there is no incentive to negotiate,” he said. “Everyone can barricade themselves behind their right of veto. As a result, EU foreign policy is rich in procedures but often poor in results.”

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