EU Deepens Ties with Libya, Syria

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, November 2004 | Go to article overview
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EU Deepens Ties with Libya, Syria


Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


The European Union took steps in October to engage more broadly Syria and Libya, two countries whose proliferation behavior had been previously an obstacle to deeper ties.

The EU foreign ministers agreed Oct. 11 to lift completely an almost 20-year arms embargo on Libya, a step that allows EU countries to export arms and other military equipment to that country. Such transfers, however, are still governed by the EU's Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, as well as national export control laws. The Code of Conduct, which is not legally binding, lists several criteria to guide EU members' arms sales. It also requires a state approving a weapons transaction that has been denied by another member to consult with the government who initially vetoed the sale. (see ACT, May 1998.)

The push for lifting the embargo on Libya came from Italy, which wants Tripoli to be able to purchase military equipment so that it can better patrol its maritime borders and prevent illegal immigration. "ICJooperation with Libya on the topic of migration has become a pressing matter," the foreign ministers said in an Oct. 11 statement.

The EU imposed the embargo in 1986 in response to Libya's involvement in several terrorist incidents. Later that year, following the bombing of a Berlin nightclub, the EU also imposed several other restrictive measures, such as limiting the travel of Libyan diplomats. The EU, however, lifted these other measures in 1999, several months after the UN security Council suspended similar sanctions. The security Council permanently lifted its sanctions in September 2003, but the EU arms embargo remained in place. (see ACT, October 2003.)

The foreign ministers' statement acknowledged the progress Libya has made in resolving concerns surrounding its past terrorist activities, including compensating families of the victims of the Berlin attack, as well as the bombing of two civilian airplanes. The ministers also noted Libya's December 2003 decision to dismantle its chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its missiles with ranges exceeding 300 kilometers. (see ACT, January/February 2004.)

The EU still has "concerns" about such issues as Libya's human rights record, according to the statement, but will still adopt a policy of "engagement" with Libya in addition to lifting the embargo.

Since Libya's December disarmament decision, the United States has moved rapidly to establish ties with Libya, most recently lifting its remaining economic sanctions on Tripoli in September. Washington, however, maintains arms restrictions on arms shipments to Libya. (see ACT, October 2004.)

Negotiations With Syria Move Forward

Meanwhile, the European Commission-which formulates policy proposals for the EU and manages the EU bureaucracy-announced Oct.

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