AP with Libya’s Channel
Libya’s internationally recognized authorities said Italian vessels entered the country’s territorial waters without permission early Sunday and vowed to use “all means” to protect its sovereignty.
It said three Italian vessels were spotted off the coast of the eastern city of Benghazi early Sunday. The ships are likely part of an international effort to stem the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.
Last month, the U.N. authorized European Union countries to inspect vessels and use force to disrupt migrant smuggling on the high-seas off Libya, but not in its waters.
Members of Libya’s cabinet and parliament, the House of Representatives, welcomed help dealing with the migrant crisis but have repeatedly denounced any unilateral attempts to move into Libyan waters as unwanted “interference”.
“The HoR has clearly stated its rejection of foreign intervention. Warships entering Libyan waters must be done in coordination with the Ministry of Defense,” HoR member Amer Omran told Libya Channel.
“Italian warships on Libyan shores should be the wakeup call for Libyans to unite and stop such violation of our borders.. and our sovereignty,” added AbuBakr Said, another lawmaker.
HoR spokesperson Aissa al-Arebi said previous efforts by the international community to meddle in Libyan affairs had failed, referencing the NATO-imposed no fly zone during the 2011 revolution which unseated Muammar Gaddafi. He called instead for increased support for Libya’s Armed Forces, which are subject to a four-year long UN arms embargo.
“We reject any foreign interference because it disappointed us in 2011 and we call for the support of Libyan army,” HoR spokesperson Aissa al-Arebi told Libya’s Channel after the vessels entered Libyan waters.
“The parliament has asked for backing for the national army to wipe out terrorism, not foreign boots on the ground,” he added.
Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of Gaddafi. Smugglers have exploited the turmoil, sending tens of thousands of migrants and refugees off in rickety boats to Europe.