Operation Irini up and running in the Mediterranean

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The EU naval operation in the Mediterranean, previously concentrating on migrants is up and running with a new mandate and name since the beginning of this month.

It is now Operation Irini, named after the Greek goddess of peace, and the major objective of the multi-nation naval operation is to stop the flow of illegal arms to Libya.

Officially termed the EU Operation EUNavFor Med Irini, it commenced work on 4 May when the French naval vessel Jean Bart and a maritime patrol aircraft from Luxembourg moved into the operational area.

The first statement issued by the new EU operation has it that Jean Bart, a Cassard Class frigate carrying pennant number D615, is a valuable asset as it monitors communication at sea as well as air traffic. “This double effort is essential for implementation of the operation’s mandate in compliance with the Berlin conference, ensuring impartiality and conflict sensitivity.”

EU foreign affairs and security policy representative Josep Borrell said ahead of Operation Irini going active: “At the Berlin Conference, leaders agreed to work toward a sustainable solution to the crisis in Libya. However, the conflict continues to put the lives of Libyans and the region at risk. Effective enforcement of the UN arms embargo on Libya will help in achieving a sustainable ceasefire and advancing to a political agreement. Operation Irini is an important contribution toward achieving this goal. It shows EU commitment to peace in Libya, even when member states are battling the coronavirus.

The force generation conference for Irini finished on April 28 with planning for sea operations starting immediately. This saw the first assets deployed with assets from other contributing countries “joining in the coming weeks and months” Rome-based operation commander Admiral Fabio Agostini said.

Initially, the Operation will have three vessels, contributed by France, Greece and Italy); a Maltese boarding team and three patrol aircraft from Germany, Luxembourg and Poland with a similar number of vessels and aircraft in support.

The European Satellite Centre (SatCen) will provide satellite imagery support.

Other special assets for operational tasks, such as submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and airborne early warning aircraft are expected to support the operation. These will be offered by member states on an occasional basis according to the statement.

“Particular attention is paid to COVID-19 countermeasures. The Operation Commander issued guidelines to participating countries to reduce the risk of contagion in headquarters and on board ships and aircraft. Aircraft have to be declared “COVID-19 free” by the flag State before inclusion in Operation Irini,” the statement said.