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UN effort to allow EU migrant plan 'paused' without Libya OK

UN effort to allow EU migrant plan 'paused' without Libya OK

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. Security Council effort to authorize a European Union plan to combat a startling surge of migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean has "paused" as efforts continue in Brussels to secure Libya's crucial consent, two council diplomats said Wednesday.

The north African country is central to the plan to intercept migrant smuggling boats on its coast and in its waters because most of the tens of thousands of migrants are setting off from the western part of the chaotic nation. More than 1,800 have died this year alone. Many are fleeing conflict in Syria or repression in countries like Eritrea.

Libya has split into two rival governments. The foreign minister of the internationally recognized one, Mohammed al-Dairi, was meeting in Brussels on Wednesday with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Mogherini refused to comment on the pause in the council's efforts to draft a resolution authorizing the EU plan, while her office called the meeting with al-Dairi "very constructive."

The EU plan has raised concerns about what will happen to the migrants if the smuggling ships carrying them are seized or even destroyed. The proposed naval operation would need Libya's approval to carry out activities on its coast or in its territorial waters.

Mogherini and the UK and Italian ministers stressed the urgency for Libyans to set up a national unity government and increase cooperation among the rival governments and affiliated militias to tackle the threat from terrorism as well.

Fears have risen as Libyan militias aligned with the Islamic State group have gained in strength.

In New York, one council diplomat said obtaining Libya's consent is complicated because the internationally recognized government doesn't control the western coast where most of the migrant smuggling ships set off for Europe. The government also worries that any EU dealings with its rival will give the rival more weight in ongoing U.N.-led peace talks.

The council diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss efforts still under discussion.

Updated : 2021-09-24 01:09 GMT+08:00