Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday that his government is refusing to give its consent for UN action aimed at endorsing Europe’s military plan to fight migrant smugglers in the Mediterranean.
Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told AFP that as long as European governments were discussing the plan with Libyan militias that control coastal territory, there would be no green light for a UN resolution.
“The position of Libya is clear: as long as the European Union and some other countries are not dealing with the legitimate government as the sole representative of the Libyan people, they will not get any consent on our part,” Dabbashi said in an interview.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini last month appeared before the Security Council to request UN backing for Europe’s plan to confront the migrant crisis by using military force against smugglers.
The Security Council’s EU members — Britain, France, Lithuania and Spain — are working with Italy on a draft resolution that would endorse the EU naval force, authorizing the use of force in Libyan territorial waters.
But the resolution requires the Libyan government to first give its consent for the operations that could also take place on its coastal territory.
Libya’s internationally recognized government has been driven out of Tripoli and is now based in the eastern city of Tobruk, but the United Nations has been for months working to broker a deal on a new national unity government.
The Tobruk government sent an envoy to Brussels last week and Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Dayri was at EU headquarters this week for more talks on the EU plan.
Despite the meetings, Dabbashi made clear that a letter of consent was not forthcoming.
“I think the resolution will never come out,” he said.
No UN resolution
The ambassador acknowledged that the new EU naval force can act in the Mediterranean without Security Council endorsement, but he added: “There are consequences.”
“I don’t think they will go too far without the Security Council resolution.”
“This concerns our territorial waters and territory.”
Engulfed in fighting since the 2011 fall of Moamer Kadhafi, Libya has become a staging ground for smugglers who load rickety boasts with refugees and migrants desperate to reach Europe.
So far this year, some 1,770 migrants have perished on the hazardous journey to Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration, a 30-fold increase on the same period in 2014.
More than 5,000 people have died in the past 18 months.
Security Council diplomats privately said the European effort to present a resolution on the migrant crisis had hit a wall over Libya’s refusal to give its approval.
European governments had instructed their diplomats, mostly based in Tunis, to reach out to various Libyan factions to try to get them onboard the plan before formally presenting the draft resolution at the Security Council.
They had also asked the Tobruk government to provide a letter of consent.