US could end UAE arms sales over weapons transfer to Libya's Haftar

US could end UAE arms sales over weapons transfer to Libya's Haftar
A Democratic senator warned that the US could cut off arms sales to the United Arab Emirates over a report that the US ally shipped US missiles to Haftar's forces.

3 min read
02 July, 2019
The weapons were found during an offensive on Tripoli [Getty]
The United States could cut off arms sales to the United Arab Emirates over a report that the US ally shipped US missiles to Libyan rebels, a Democratic senator warned on Tuesday.

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded an investigation and asked for explanations by July 15 on arms agreements with the United Arab Emirates.

"You are surely aware that if these allegations prove true you may be obligated by law to terminate all arms sales to the UAE," Menendez said.

He warned that the transfer would be a "serious violation" of US law and "almost certainly" break the UN arms embargo on Libya.

It came after The New York Times reported on Friday that forces loyal to Libya's unity government had discovered four Javelin missiles at a base used by men under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who has waged a months-long offensive to take Tripoli.

The newspaper said that markings on the US-made missiles indicated they had been sold to the United Arab Emirates in 2008.

"We take all allegations of misuse of US origin defence articles very seriously. We are aware of these reports and are seeking additional information," a State Department spokesperson said on condition of anonymity.

"We expect all recipients of US origin defence equipment to abide by their end-use obligations."

The missiles were apparently discovered this week when forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) recaptured the strategic town of Gharyan in a surprise attack, seizing the main supply base for Haftar's offensive.

In Tripoli, the GNA on Saturday showed journalists three Javelin missiles and seven Chinese-made Norinco GP6 artillery weapons it said had been seized from Haftar's base.

"These are a sample that we have obtained permission to bring here," GNA fighter Ibrahim al-Touil said, adding he could not disclose the total number of the weapons.

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The UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are seen as key supporters of Haftar.

Chinese-made attack drones were also found, the newspaper reported.

The State Department official said Washington supports the efforts of UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame "to help avoid further escalation and chart a path forward that provides security and prosperity for all Libyans."

"We call on all parties to rapidly return to UN political mediation, the success of which depends upon a ceasefire in and around Tripoli," the US official said.

Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced in the offensive on Tripoli, while diplomatic efforts to revive political talks have foundered.

Menendez told Pompeo that the alleged arms transfer to Libya was "particularly alarming" as it came shortly after President Donald Trump's administration bypassed Congress to approve $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Lawmakers fear that the weapons will be used to kill civilians in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation and schools and hospitals have been hit in a Saudi and Emirati offensive.

Pompeo said that the sale was an emergency because of tensions with Iran, which backs Yemen's Houthi rebels.

Democratic senators and a handful of Republicans last month voted to block the sale but they did not have enough votes to override a veto by Trump.

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