European nations are not doing enough to check Russian and allied activities in Libya, the US’s senior diplomat for the Middle East said Thursday.
Addressing the German Marshall Fund during a virtual discussion, David Schenker said while European capitals are “proud” of their efforts to enforce a UN arms blockade on the North African country they have been limited to stopping shipments from Turkey.
“The only interdictions that they are doing is of Turkish military material that they’re sending to Libya. Nobody is interdicting Russian aircraft, nobody is interdicting Emirati aircraft, nobody is interdicting the Egyptians,” Schenker said of European nations, according to Reuters.
“They could at least, if they were serious, I think, call them out – call out all parties of the conflict when they violate the arms embargo,” he added.
Libya has been mired in strife since NATO-led operations led to the overthrow of former strongman Muammar Gadaffi in 2011.
The country’s new government was founded four years later in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement have so far failed due to a military offensive by renegade general Khalifa Haftar’s forces.
Since April 2019, Haftar’s forces have launched attacks on the Libyan capital of Tripoli and other parts of northwestern Libya, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths, including civilians. Haftar has the support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia while the UN-recognized government is backed by Turkey.
The Libyan government has recently achieved significant victories against Haftar, pushing his forces out of Tripoli and the strategic city of Tarhuna.
US Africa Command said this week it believes the Wagner Group, a Russian private military firm, has deployed some 2,000 personnel to Libya to bolster Haftar.
Schenker reportedly said that among the myriad things Europe could be doing to end the conflict in Libya is sanctioning the Wagner Group, warning “If they aren’t going to take out a more robust role, then this thing is going to drag on.”
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