Western — 20 June 2016

Jun 20, 2016 | International actors

Following UN Security Council approval on 14 June to inspect vessels off the coast of Libya, EU foreign ministers agreed at talks in Luxembourg on 20 June to extend Operation Sophia to July 2017, and tasked it with supporting Libya’s coast guard and navy. The operation will also help to police the UN arms embargo off the Libya coast. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault welcomed the decision saying, “We have to act against all those who exploit the migrants… And then there is the fight against the arms trafficking that benefits Daesh.”

At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on 15 June, special envoy for Libya Jonathan Winer told the committee that the Obama administration seeks to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) with a $56 million aid package. The State Department plans to reallocate $35 million in current and prior year funding to help the political transition, including $4 million for a UN-led Stabilization Facility that will repair public infrastructure. The funds would come on top of the State Department’s $20.5 million bilateral aid request for the fiscal year that starts October 1, 2016. “Our strategic interest in Libya is to support a unified, accountable government that meets the economic and security needs of the Libyan people,” Winer told senators. “At the center of our policy has been support for the creation of the GNA as a unifying bridge to help Libyans move beyond the damaging period of political competition … and fragmentation until the country adopts a new constitution and a long-term government.”

On June 18, the United States Pentagon said it was encouraged by the progress the Bunyan Marsus coalition has made against ISIS in Sirte, but the US would not be offering additional military assistance for the GNA. Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said, “Our focus is to be prepared to support the (new government) as they strive to assume responsibility for the security for all Libyan people. At this time, we have not been asked to provide support.”