EU consults with NATO on Libya aid mission
The European Union and NATO strengthened their coordination Friday for a potential EU military mission to deliver urgent humanitarian aid to Libya's shell-shocked city of Misrata.
One day after attending an Arab League meeting on Libya in Cairo, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met NATO foreign ministers in Berlin to discuss ties between the two organisations and the situation in Libya.
"We also remain seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in Libya and stand ready, if requested by the UN, to send an EU mission to support humanitarian efforts," Ashton said.
"Pending the request, the planning is at an advanced stage. And in this context we are coordinating with others, including NATO," she said in a statement after the talks.
The discussions came after the EU overcame Swedish objections to a potential military-humanitarian mission as the bloc approved the first phase of planning for such an operation, a European diplomat said.
The EU and NATO agreed to hold an informal meeting at the level of ambassadors to discuss Libya in the coming weeks, to "avoid a doubling up (of operations) and adjust their activities," a German diplomat said.
The two organisations have exchanged their operational plans for Libya in case the United Nations asks the EU to send a mission to Libya, a NATO official said.
The EU has yet to make any final decision on a mission to Libya, which would likely include the deployment of ships. Any mission would need the green light from the UN.
But Ashton told UN chief Ban Ki-moon last week that the bloc was ready to use military means to bring urgent aid to Misrata, a rebel-held city besieged by Moamer Kadhafi's forces for nearly two months.
Any mission would have to be coordinated with NATO since the 28-nation military alliance has deployed several warships and jets in the Mediterranean to enforce an arms embargo and a no-fly zone on Libya.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this week that the EU should lead any humanitarian mission, not the alliance.
"It is also a bit of a controversial question to have a military organisation to take part in the delivery of humanitarian assistance," Rasmussen said on Monday.
The Libya foreign ministry warned Monday that "any attempt to approach Libyan territory under the cover of a humanitarian mission will be met with staunch armed resistance."
© 2011 AFP