Malta tells EU it will no longer take part in Mediterranean mission to stop arms smuggling

Malta told EU partners earlier this month that it would no longer be participating in an EU mission to stop more arms reaching warring factions in Libya.

A Maltese government spokesman and two EU diplomats told Reuters that the decision had been taken in protest at what Valetta said was an EU failure to help deal with migrants arriving from Libya, where the conflict has escalated sharply since April.

The mission began on May 4th after months of difficult diplomacy over which EU countries, if any, should take in any migrants rescued at sea. Malta quit five days later.

An EU spokesman said only that the mission was “a concrete example of how the EU wants to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict on Libya,” noting that it had a mandate to enforce the UN arms embargo.

Complicating matters, Malta has told Brussels it will veto decisions on the operation, known as Irini, that involving spending for disembarkation of migrants, port diversions, and the use of drones.

Operation Irini includes vessels from France, Greece and Italy, one Maltese naval boarding team and three patrol aircrafts from Germany, Luxembourg and Poland. The European Satellite Centre is providing satellite imagery support.

Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo complained early this month that Italy and Malta were being left alone to deal with thousands of migrants crossing the central Mediterranean.