EU to use military in Libya if UN gives mandate


EUROPEAN FOREIGN ministers resolved to conduct an EU military operation in Libya if the UN requests a mission to support humanitarian relief and protect refugees.

Ireland might participate in such an operation, to be known as “EUfor Libya”, as it would have a UN mandate.

“The Government will have to discuss that and obviously there are procedures for participation in any mission,” Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore told reporters. He did not elaborate.

With Nato members of the EU already involved in the aerial campaign to enforce the UN no-fly zone over Libya, the initiation of any new mission would deepen Europe’s military involvement in the country.

However, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said an intervention would be nothing close to “the traditional form of putting troops on the ground”.

Military assets are used only in certain circumstances, she said.

“It is absolutely right that in terms of looking at humanitarian support one uses assets very carefully, especially military assets, because it’s very important that people involved in humanitarian aid are safe.” Such a mission is contingent on a request from the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), giving it a UN mandate.

The Tánaiste said most EU member states agreed that military protection for refugees and humanitarian aid workers would require such a mandate.

The ministers discussed a draft “concept of operations” document, setting out the very broad parameters of any intervention, but did not sign off on a final document due to Swedish objections.

However, EU diplomats are expected to finalise the document in the coming days.

“Had it been ready today, we would have supported an agreement today,” Lady Ashton said.

“My proposal was to make sure that the EU was able to provide those assets if OCHA felt it was the time to do so rather than start the planning. So that’s what we’re doing.” She said it was essential that the UN believed the deployment of military assets would make a significant difference. That would be for the UN to decide, she added.

“They have to think very carefully about using those assets. Our job is to make sure that if those assets become necessary and are required we are ready to engage.”

The ministers toughened sanctions against Libya’s oil and gas industry. “You’ll see I think that we’ve moved significantly forward,” said Lady Ashton of the penalties.