09:54 GMT11 April 2021
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    ROME (Sputnik) - Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio suggested on Monday that the EU Naval Forces in the Mediterranean, also known as Operation Sophia, can be reorganised in a way to become a monitoring tool of the Libyan arms embargo that was negotiated in Berlin.

    "With regard to reactivating Sophia, I have already said that when it comes to using the European Union's mandate and in order not to repeat the entire procedure for an embargo-monitoring mission from scratch, it might become the starting point. But Sophia must be reorganised completely. It has to become a mission to not let arms into Libya, to monitor the embargo," Di Maio said during a press encounter following the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

    According to the Italian minister, the measure will help the Libyan conflict parties launch political dialogue toward unification and sovereignty.

    He said options for deciding the EU's embargo monitoring mission would be discussed in the coming weeks.

    Rome is the headquarters of Operation Sophia, which has existed since June 2015 with a declared mission to intercept and detain vessels in the Southern Mediterranean suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. Its current mandate is due to expire in March.

    On Sunday, states among participants of a conference in Berlin agreed to halt arms supplies to Libya as a measure of non-interference in the Libyan civil conflict between two rival administrations.

    Following the summit in Berlin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that Rome is prepared to actively contribute to the monitoring of the Libyan ceasefire.

    Fighters from the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army at a military academy in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi
    © AFP 2021 / ABDULLAH DOMA
    Fighters from the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army at a military academy in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi

    In Libya, the confrontation between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) of Fayez Sarraj and the rival Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar has practically split the oil-rich country into a duopoly since 2011. Over the past several weeks, the situation has escalated amid LNA's advance on GNA-held Libyan capital of Tripoli.

    Russia and Turkey have negotiated a ceasefire in Libya starting January 12 and mediated talks between Sarraj and Haftar in Moscow last week. Ensuring that the ceasefire endures is one of the priorities set out by the Berlin summit's participants in a joint communique. 

    Luigi Di Maio, arms embargo, Operation Sophia, Italy, Libya
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