France intercepts tanker bound for Libya, blocks oil sale to UAE-registered company

France intercepts tanker bound for Libya, blocks oil sale to UAE-registered company
The Libya-bound tanker was stopped on its way to complete the sale of refined products to a company registered in the United Arab Emirates.
3 min read
29 May, 2020
French President Emmanuel Macron visits French warship Jean-Bart [AFP/Getty]
A French frigate on a European Union mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya halted a tanker on its way to the eastern Libyan port of Tobruk

The French Cassard class warship Jean-Bart intercepted the Jal Laxmi tanker loaded with refined petroleum products last week, four anonymous Western diplomats told Bloomberg.

The tanker was headed to Tobruk port "as part of a sale of refined products to a company registered in the United Arab Emirates", Bloomberg reported.

The frigate operates under a EU mission called IRINI. The mission was launched in March and tasked with blocking illicit oil sales and implementing the UN arms embargo on Libya principally through the inspection of maritime vessels approaching the country.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups.
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Last year, the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) of rogue General Khalifa Haftar, who controls swathes of eastern Libya, launched an offensive to seize Tripoli from the internationally-recognised Governmnet of National Accord (GNA).

The tanker currently remains in the area where it was stopped by the French frigate.

The United States and the United Nations also reportedly exerted pressure on the tanker to prevent the completion of the sale, Bloomberg reported quoting diplomatic sources.

Neither the UN nor the French Ministry of Defence responded to the news outlet's request for comments. 

The US State Department told Bloomberg it knew of reports on the Jal Laxmi tanker. 

The turmoil in Libya has steadily worsened since 2014, after Haftar launched "Operation Dignity" against rival militias and foreign countries have increasingly intervened in the ensuing war - despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.

The top UN official in Libya warned Tuesday that war in the North African country will "intensify, broaden and deepen" due to increasing foreign intervention and the influx of weapons, military equipment and mercenaries to both sides.

Acting UN special envoy Stephanie Williams called on Berlin conference participants to urgently back a halt to the inflow of military support from abroad, which violates a UN arms embargo.

Turkey has sent armoured drones and air defences to prop up the internationally-recognized Tripoli government, while the forces of rogue General Khalifa Haftar's are backed by the UAE, Egypt and Russian mercenaries.

Libya's UN Ambassador Taher Al-Sunni told the council that government forces captured a number of Russian-made air defence systems at the Al-Watiyah airbase this month, destroyed UAE armoured vehicles, and found tons of high-tech weapons.

Read more: Foreign mercenaries and fractured healthcare heighten Libya's coronavirus risks

France diplomatically backs Haftar. US-manufactured French missiles were found at an airbase belonging to the rogue general last year. 

The French government admitted that the missiles were French but it denied supplying them to Haftar's forces in breach of a UN arms embargo, saying that the missiles had been lost after they were judged to have been defective.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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