• Toby Irwin

Libya: Inconsequential Arms Embargo

The civil war in Libya approaches its ninth year of conflict. Calls for resolutions continue to be reiterated, but despite this an actualised ceasefire remains unlikely. At the start of December 2019, the United Nations issued a statement calling for the advancement of a peace process which would "move forward a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process facilitated by the United Nations".

The differing views of each faction has frustrated international efforts. Indeed, a pre-requisite for a cessation of hostilities and the advancement of diplomatic talks is the stop of arms flows into the country. Resolution 1970 (2011) initially set out to ban the import of arms to the country.

The last year has seen a continued flow of arms. The main government opposition, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and the Libyan National Army, has leveraged support from its international allies in a number of attempts to break the deadlock and capture Tripoli. Saudi Arabia has provided funding and the United Arab Emirates has provided air support. Local militias, primarily concentrated in the south of the country, have reached out to Turkey. Istanbul has been known to supply drones, vehicles, small arms and light weapons, and anti-tank missiles to affiliated islamist groups (as reported by the IISS).

A joint statement from the governments of the UK, USA, UAE, Italy, France and Egypt noted again the centrality of the arms embargo:

"We also call on all UN member states to fully respect their obligations to contribute to Libya’s peace and stability, prevent destabilizing arms shipments, and safeguard Libya’s oil resources in accordance with Security Council resolutions 2259 (2015), 2278 (2016), 2362 (2017), and 2473 (2019)."

It seems that so long as rival factions can leverage support from international allies they will feel they have a relative advantage. This results in a continuation of efforts to try and tip the balance of power in the country. It may be the case that the UN supported government in Tripoli is ironically defeated purely by its own insistence of the arms embargo, while its rivals continue to evade this restriction.


International Institute of Strategic Studies: Strategic Survey (2019)



Cover Photo acquired from Flickr, free to re-use (Creative Commons 2.0 Generic)

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a third year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK foreign policy and the defence/aerospace industry.