Accessibility links

Al-Thini Calls for Naval Observer Force Off Libyan Coast

  • Edward Yeranian

FILE-Libya's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thini takes part in a news conference in Valletta, Malta, Oct. 21, 2014

FILE-Libya's Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thini takes part in a news conference in Valletta, Malta, Oct. 21, 2014

The head of Libya's internationally recognized Cabinet based in Tobruk, Abdallah al-Thini, says his government is calling on the international community to deploy a naval force off the Libyan coast to halt arms smuggling to Islamic militants.

Prime Minister al-Thini spoke with journalists and Egyptian government officials in Cairo Friday, during a visit to discuss security and economic issues. His visit, according to the Libya Herald, was a stopover on the way to Moscow to discuss a possible arms sale by the Russian government.

Al-Thini told journalists that his government is urging the international community to set up a neutral naval observer force to monitor and prevent arms smuggling into Libya.

He says that Libya has repeatedly called for a naval observation force, specifically from the European Union, in order to prevent illegal immigration or arms smuggling, and this would be welcome so long as it was under a neutral power.

The acting prime minister's call comes on the heels of a leaked Libyan report to the U.N. Security Council that said “the capacity of Libya to physically prevent [arms] transfers is almost nonexistent and there is no authorization to enforce the arms embargo on the high seas as there was during the 2011 revolution.”

Libyan politics is currently split between the Tobruk-based government and a rival assembly in Tripoli. Various militia control other areas of the country.

In an interview with al-Arabiya TV, al-Thini said boatloads of Islamic militants are entering Libya by sea on unregistered boats. In a separate interview, former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril questioned why NATO ships are not intervening to stop arms shipments arriving by sea.

The Egyptian military accuses Turkey of sending arms to Islamic militias in Benghazi and Misrata. Turkey denies the charges. Meanwhile, the Libyan air force, based in the east of the country, has accused Qatar of sending arms by air to Misrata. Qatar denies those charges, as well.

There were short-lived indications that Italy, Libya's former colonial power, was considering sending ground troops to stabilize the situation in the country. Prime Minister al Thini, however, said that his government is not seeking outside troops.

He says that the Libyan people cannot accept a ground force intervening on its soil, and history has shown that the Libyan people are capable of defending themselves, if they are given the proper weapons to defend their sovereignty and their loved ones.

Libyan analyst Abdel Baset Hamid told Arab media that despite all the talk of arms sales and outside military intervention, the best solution, as proposed by Prime Minister Thini, is for a political agreement among Libya's rival political and military leaders.

A national dialogue that was scheduled for Thursday in the Moroccan capital of Rabat was canceled. The Tobruk-based Libyan parliament suspended its participation in the U.N.-sponsored talks, following a series of bloody car-bomb attacks a week ago.