Op Irini enforcing Libyan arms embargo

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In its two years of operation to date the European Union (EU) Naval Force (NavFor) Mediterranean Operation Irini investigated over 6 200 ships, conducted 250 plus “friendly approaches” and inspected 22 suspect vessels.

This is done in line with its mandate of ensuring the United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Libya is upheld.

One illegal cargo – jet fuel – was confiscated keeping at least some military aircraft in Libya grounded.

In addition to its maritime taskings, ships and crew detached to Irini regularly monitor transport activities of 16 Libyan ports and oil facilities as well as 25 airports and landing strips. To date, Irini command has sent 35 reports to the UN panel of experts set up to oversee violations or possible violations of the arms embargo against the North African country.

Operation Irini commanders are assigned on six-month rotation by Italy and Greece, which also provides the flagship and backbone of embarked headquarters personnel according to an Operation Irini statement.

The rotation policy saw Italian Rear Admiral Fabrizio Rutteri taking over from Greek Rear Admiral Michail Magkos at the start of April. At the same time flagship duties moved to ITS Grecale (F571) from HS Elli (F450).

Speaking at the change of command, the Italian admiral said: “Operation Irini has been active in the central Mediterranean for two years. Adding to Operation Sophia (2015/20) this marks seven years of EU engagement in this critical area. Against a backdrop of continued political and security instability in Libya, Irini’s mission is an invaluable tool for Europe to monitor and disrupt illegal activities at sea and in the air off Libya.”

The operation is supported by 24 European countries providing ships, aircraft and personnel. The current Irini strength is two frigates, six maritime patrol aircraft and 600 personnel supported by the EU Satellite Centre (SatCen) in Torrejón, Spain.