EU to launch new naval operation in the central Mediterranean to replace Operation Sophia

EPA-EFE/FOCKE STRANGMANN

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EU foreign affairs ministers have agreed to launch a new naval operation in the Central Mediterranean, with the old mission that was supposed to fulfill that brief — Operation Sophia — to be closed down.

POLITICO reports Josep Borrell saying “We agreed to launch a new operation in the Mediterranean and Operation Sophia will be closed.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, was speaking at the end of a meeting of ministers in which they discussed how to follow on from an international conference on Libya in Berlin at which they agreed to help implement a U.N. arms embargo and a ceasefire.

We all agreed to create a mission to block the entry of arms into Libya,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said, adding that the mission would include a naval element to enforce the embargo – a sticking point for some member states.

“If it creates a ‘pull factor’, that is to say the ships attract migrants, the mission will be stopped.”

The news was confirmed by his German and Austrian counterparts.

Austria had led opposition to reviving Operation Sophia – set up in 2015 to fight people smuggling across the Mediterranean – to enforce the embargo with ships, fearing it could reactivate a rescue fleet that would end up ferrying migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Politico / Al Jazeera

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