A smoke rises from a port of Tripoli after being attacked in Tripoli, Libya February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Ahmed Elumami
CAIRO – 22 September 2020: On Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to sanction two individuals and three companies for violating the arms embargo on Libya, two diplomats told Reuters.
Both individuals are Libyan while the companies are based in Turkey, Jordan, and Kazkhstan and operate in the maritime and aviation sectors.
Those are Kazakhstan’s Sigma Airlines, Jordan’s Med Wave Shipping, and Turkey's Avrasya Shipping. According to Reuters, the assets of the Turkish firm have been frozen as its "cargo vessel Cirkin was involved in a naval incident between NATO members France and Turkey in June," and also used to smuggle arms to Libya.
Turkey denies the claims and says the ship was carrying humanitarian aid, as reported by Reuters.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned on August 6 a "criminal network threatening the stability and security of Libya."
In a statement, OFAC explained that the network consists of Faysal al-Wadi, operator of the vessel Maraya, and two associates who are Musbah Mohamed M Wadi and Nourddin Millod M Musbah. The office designated the Malta-based company, Alwefaq Ltd, and identified Maraya as blocked property.
“Faysal al-Wadi and his associates have smuggled fuel from Libya and used Libya as a transit zone to smuggle illicit drugs,” said Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich. “The United States is committed to exposing illicit networks exploiting Libya’s resources for their own profit while hurting the Libyan people,” the statement reads.
"Wadi has worked with a network of contacts in North Africa and southern Europe to smuggle fuel from, and illicit drugs through, Libya to Malta. Wadi’s illicit trafficking operation transported drugs between the Libyan port of Zuwarah and Hurd’s Bank, just outside Malta’s territorial waters. Hurd’s Bank is a well-known geographic transfer location for illicit maritime transactions. Wadi also smuggled drugs and Libyan fuel into Malta itself. Wadi has kept all official documentation clear of his name, while being the primary organizer of smuggling operations using the vessel Maraya," OFAC indicated.
"As a result of today’s actions, all property and interests in property of these persons, including the identified vessel, that are in or come within the United States or are in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or those within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated persons," the statement underlined.
The sanctioned company is most probably named after Al Wefaq Government (Arabic for the Government of National Accord (GNA)), which is a Tripoli-based interim government that is not elected but recognized by the United Nations.
Zuwarah, from which the fuel was smuggled, is a Mediterranean city western Libya lying to the west of the capital, Tripoli, and is controlled by the GNA militias.
On the same day the U.S. sanctions were announced, Libya, Turkey, and Malta issued a joint statement denouncing NATO's Operation IRINI aimed at enforcing arms embargo on Libya in the Mediterranean.
The foreign ministers of the three states met in Tripoli to discuss joint cooperation as Turkey and Malta expressed support to the GNA.
In December 2019, Turkey signed with the GNA two MoUs on defense and gas drilling in the Mediterranean.
Spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Ahmed al-Mesmary had stated early in July that Turkey has transported into Libya 25,000 mercenaries. Those include 17,000 Syrian militants, 2,500 Tunisians who fought in the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) in Idlib and Aleppo, and other nationalities including the Sudanese.
Turkey has also sent 2,500 – 3,000 officers and military experts to co-command the operations rooms of the GNA militias and to pilot drones from mainly Tripoli's Mitiga Airbase. The LNA downed around 70 Turkish drones as they were targeting its concentrations.
The LNA announced downing on July 23 a Turkish reconnaissance plane west of the Libyan city of Sirte, which is currently controlled by LNA forces.
On July 22, the LNA warned Turkey against approaching the Libyan coast, threatening to target any hostile naval vessels in the Libyan waters.
Libyan tribes announced the closure of oil ports and fields in January as the revenues were used by the GNA to pay militants. Early in July, the tribes declared that oil facilities would resume operations. However, the LNA announced on July 11 that such facilities would remain closed until the demands of the Libyan people on dismantling militias are fulfilled. The Libyan National Oil Corporation (NCO) announced that the value of revenues lost until present is $6.5 billion.
On July 5, several "unknown aircraft" launched nine strikes against Oqba Bin Nafea Airbase located in Al Watiyah controlled by the GNA and Turkey. The outcome was the destruction of Hawk air defense systems, and a Koral electronic warfare system as well as the killing of a Turkish commander, and six officers as the operations room they were in was hit.
However, Commander of Mobilization at the LNA Khaled al-Mahgoub stated on July 20 that Turkey still uses Oqba bin Nafea airbase in Al Watiyah western the country to bring in military reinforcements less than a month from losing air defense and electronic warfare systems in strikes by "unknown flights."
The LNA's commander of mobilization unveiled July 25 that Syrian mercenaries transported by Turkey are being turned into police forces by the Ministry of Interior affiliated to the GNA.
The Libyan Armed Forces restored Sirte in January, and was advancing in the outskirts of Misrata and Tripoli. However, early in June, it lost Al Watiyah and Tarhouna, which was its last stronghold western the country, retreating into Sirte and Al Jufrah.