If this weekend's Berlin summit on the Libya crisis goes according to plan, nervous EU member states will come under pressure to provide forces to help monitor any truce.

The bloc's chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, has made it clear that Brussels does not want to be sidelined while Moscow and Ankara move boldly to oversee an end to the conflict on their terms.

But the EU has no army of its own, and diplomats warned Friday that member states have limited means to put together an operation, even one so close to their southern coastline.

"If there is a ceasefire in Libya, then the EU must be prepared to help implement and monitor this ceasefire - possibly also with soldiers, for example as part of an EU mission," Borrell told Der Spiegel magazine.

"Take the arms embargo - Europeans have been entrusted by the UN to enforce it. In reality, the arms embargo is ineffective. Nobody controls anything there," he told the German news weekly.

Earlier this week, at the European Parliament, Borrell - the former Spanish foreign minister who serves as the EU's foreign policy representative - said Europe must learn from the example of Syria.

Assault on Tripoli 

Turkey and Russia have deployed troops in support of local actors in the conflict, and now wield greater influence on the outcome than the more cautious Europeans.

"Since we don't want to participate in a military solution, we Europeans barricade ourselves in the belief there is no military solution," he told MEPs in Strasbourg.

"In Syria a military solution has been brought by the Turks and the Russians, and this has changed the equilibrium on the eastern part of the Mediterranean," he warned.

Libya has been in turmoil since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was killed in a 2011 Nato-backed uprising. Tripoli is in the hands of a UN-recognised unity government.  

But elsewhere, militias control the oil-rich Mediterranean country, and forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar - a military strongman based in the east of the country - have assaulted the capital.

Haftar and the head of the Tripoli government, Fayez al-Sarraj, met in Moscow earlier this week and will be in Berlin this weekend for talks to build on a tentative ceasefire - as will Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

They are expected to approve a truce, and on Monday the foreign ministers of the EU member states will be in Brussels to discuss how to coordinate their response. The question remains: will they send troops?

European diplomats were cautious, and some warned that certain capitals would be unable - or unwilling - to step up.

An envoy warned that Borrell "has a whole different way of doing things. This works in both directions. Sometimes it is invigorating and sometimes - well, I would have say, almost erratic."

Asked about the risk of allowing Russia and Turkey to take charge of the crisis, a senior European official said: "Are you suggesting that the EU should engage in gunboat diplomacy in the central Mediterranean?

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us