EU raises possibility of armed action in Libya
The European Union is drawing up a contingency plan for an armed humanitarian intervention in Libya in case the situation in the country deteriorates.
“This is one of the possibilities that we are working on,” a senior EU official told journalists in Brussels this morning (24 February) on condition of anonymity.
The official did not specify any goals that such an intervention might have or what its mandate would be. “When we prepare a contingency plan it does not mean that we immediately activate the [United Nations] Security Council,” the official said.
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The official said that the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department had been in consultation with member states to see what civilian and military assets might be available should any armed humanitarian operation be needed. “We are far from this point,” he said. “We are making our contingency planning, this is one of the possibilities.”
The ongoing evacuation of EU citizens in Libya is a member state responsibility, with the EU in a supporting role through its Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), which was activated yesterday. The EU has no embassy in Tripoli and relies on the member states for information. The European External Action Service said that the number of EU citizens still in Libya was unknown, while the Commission put the number at 5,000-6,000. According to the Commission, around 5,000 EU nationals have already left Libya.
A Chinese ship has provided 500 places for EU citizens seeking to leave Libya, the Commission announced today. Other evacuations have primarily taken place by plane from Tripoli airport. The airport in the eastern city of Benghazi, where the rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi originated, is not accessible.
Officials declined to provide any estimates of casualties after days of heavy fighting across Libya. But one official said that “the major part” of Libya was now in the hands of insurgents.
Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, will meet Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, in Geneva on Monday.