By Staff Reporter
The European Union is contemplating a peace-keeping mission to Libya in the event of a peace agreement between warring factions, according to EU sources.
Such a mission, if approved by the UN or if requested by a legitimate government in Libya, could potentially see an Irish contribution, either military or civilian.
Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday are expected to discuss options for a mission under the EU’s common security and defence apparatus, but only if a peace agreement between rival factions has been concluded.
Any Irish involvement would require the Triple Lock mechanism of Government and Dáil approval and a UN resolution, it is understood.
Libya has been gripped by civil conflict in the four years since a NATO-led operation to protect civilians triggered the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.
Warring militias have been fighting to control key cities and the country’s oil wealth.
Recently the so-called Islamic State has made its presence felt in the country.
“The spread of IS into Libya is real and growing,” according to a senior EU diplomat.
Observers have begun to regard Libya as becoming a “failed state”, and a conduit for hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting the crossing by boat across the Mediterranean to Italy.
Bernardino Leon, the UN envoy to Libya, has been pushing for the creation of a unity government, with talks between rival factions taking place in Morocco under the so-called Rabat Process.
Despite numerous setbacks, EU sources say that Mr Bernardino, a former Spanish diplomat, is making “reasonable progress”, although there is no likelihood of any outcome until Wednesday of next week at the earliest.
However, sources say that if there is a peace agreement, the United Nations would be in a position to invite the EU to provide a mission under its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).
Such a mission could be required to secure airports and infrastructure, monitor a ceasefire agreement, and manage the country’s borders.
“Nothing is on paper yet. We are looking for a green light to proceed quickly if agreement is reached,”
said an EU source.
The Government is understood to want any EU role to be “ambitious” and for Ireland to “play an active role” if a request comes from the United Nations.
Any such mission would be considered “dangerous” however.
While the EU currently has CSDP missions in Mali, Bosnia, Somalia and the Central African Republic, “Libya would be more complex,” said the source.
Officials also note that securing a “strong legal basis” for any European mission could be difficult.
A request would have to come from a “legitimate government,” which is currently not regarded as being in place.
The UN’s current involvement in Libya could have a clause added which would invite a CSDP mission, but securing a green light from the UN Security Council could be difficult due to the long-standing resentment by Russia dating back to the NATO operation in 2011.