Libya made an urgent appeal on Wednesday to the United Nations Security Council, to allow exemptions on an arms embargo that Libya says has hobbled its ability to fight the growing threat of militancy, including recent forays into the North African nation by the Islamic State group. The U.N. had recently called for the embargo to be tightened, calling it “almost nonexistent.”
A document obtained by Agence France-Presse reportedly showed that Libya is seeking to purchase 14 MiG fighter planes, seven helicopters, 150 tanks, 150 armored vehicles and 10,000 grenade launchers, along with ammunition, from defense contractors in Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Serbia.
Libya's U.N. ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi made a case for the purchase to be allowed, less than two weeks after Libya asked the council to scrap the embargo altogether. Britain, France, and the United States oppose ending the embargo, but Libya’s potential arms contracts are reviewed by the council on a case-by-case basis, The Associated Press reported.
In his speech, Dabbashi blamed the international community’s inaction for allowing the militant threat to spread across much of his country, and threatened to suspend relations with some states, including an unnamed council member, for allegedly opening diplomatic communications with anti-government militias. At the same time, Dabbashi also attempted to win the council’s trust, saying that the Libyan army’s chief of staff and the U.N. would have to authorize every weapons purchase, and added that Libya is prepared to accept an international observer to monitor the country’s weapons trade.
"We will see in the next few days the level of seriousness among the members of this council and how much they care for the security and stability of Libya and the region," Dabbashi said. The sanctions committee told the council that it will approve the request on Monday if no objections are raised.
Libya is currently split between two rival governments, between the internationally recognized, Tobruk-based government in exile, and the other, which currently controls the capital of Tripoli and enjoys the backing of Islamist groups allegedly linked to ISIS. Some Security Council members such as Britain have said that Libya needs a unified government before the country can receive more weapons, Reuters reported.
However, the U.N. has criticized the embargo for not doing enough to halt the influx of weapons, calling it “almost nonexistent,” The National reported.
In a report released over the weekend, the U.N. criticized the ineffective embargo for worsening the country’s troubles, saying imported weapons had “reinforced the military capacity of terrorist groups operating in different parts of the region, including in Algeria, Egypt, Mali and Tunisia in particular."
The report also accused weapons manufacturers of making a fortune off the turmoil, with companies in over a dozen countries, including Belarus, Greece, Hungary, Ukraine and Turkey reportedly shipping tons of munitions to various factions in Libya. The report also called for the creation of a maritime monitoring force to help police Libya’s sea borders, and crack down on both the illegal import of weaponry and the illegal export of oil.