Operation Irini

European Union Military Operation in the Mediterranean Sea
European Union Naval Force Mediterranean
Eunvafor seal.png
Emblem of the Operation
Political leader European Union
Operation Commander Rear admiral
Stefano Turchetto
Deputy Operation Commander Rear admiral
Jean Jourdain de Muizon
Force Commander Commodore (rank)
Theodoros Mikropoulos
Dates of operation31 March 2020 (2020-03-31) – present
Country European Union
MotivesImplementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya
ColoursBlue, white, and yellow
WebsiteOperation Irini
Preceded by
Operation Sophia

The European Union Naval Force Mediterranean Operation IRINI (EUNAVFOR MED IRINI) was launched on 31 March 2020 with the primary mission to enforce the United Nations arms embargo to Libya due to the Second Libyan Civil War. Operation IRINI is a European Union military operation under the umbrella of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). The operation is expected to use aerial, maritime and satellite assets.[1]

In September 2020, the Irini operation stated that within six months, the operation sent 14 special reports to UN Panel of Experts concerning from both sides of the conflict in Libya, performed 12 visits on collaborative merchant vessels and monitored 10 ports and landing points, 25 airports and landing strips. In addition, it made 250 requests for satellite images to the EU Satellite Centre.[2]

Headquarters of the operation are in Rome, Italy. Italy and Greece alternate the Force Commander every six months (together with the rotation of the flagship).[3]


The primary mission of the operation is to ensure the implementation of the UN arms embargo. Other missions include the training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, the disruption of human trafficking and halt the illicit exports of Libyan oil.[4]


The initial mandate of Operation IRINI lasted until 31 March 2021.[1]

On 17 March 2021, the EU extended the operation for two more years, until the end of March 2023.[5]

The former Operation Sophia permanently ceased its activity at the same time of the launch of IRINI.[1]


Naval assets (active)
 France: D'Estienne d'Orves-class aviso Premier-Maître L'Her[6]
 Greece: Elli-class frigate Aegean[6] - flagship[7]
 Italy: Comandanti-class patrol vessel Comandante Borsini[6]

Air assets (active)
 France: Atlantique 2[8]
 France: Falcon 50 from Jul, 2020[3][9]
 Germany: P-3C Orion from May, 2020[10][11][12]
 Greece: EMB-145H from Jul, 2020[3][13]
 Italy: Predator B from Jul, 2020[3][14]
 Luxembourg: Swearingen Merlin from 4 May 2020[3][15]
 Poland: An-28B1R Bryza from May, 2020[16]

Previously deployed assets:

Naval assets (past)
 France: Cassard-class frigate Jean Bart from 4 May 2020, left 1 June 2020[3][17]
 France: Georges Leygues-class frigate Latouche-Tréville from 7 October 2020[18]
 Germany: Sachsen-class frigate Hamburg from 18 August 2020[19][20] to 14 December 2020.[21]
 Germany: Type 212 submarine U-35 from 12 June 2021[22] to 14 December 2021.[23]
 Greece: Hydra-class frigate Spetsai from 4 June 2020, left 17 August 2020[24]
 Greece: Elli-class frigate Adrias[25]
 Greece: Elli-class frigate Limnos from 17 September 2020[26]
 Italy: San Giorgio-class amphibious transport dock San Giorgio - from 17 July 2020 to 7 September 2020[27]
 Italy: Bergamini-class frigate Carlo Margottini - from 7 September 2020[28]
 Italy: Comandanti-class patrol vessel Comandante Cigala Fulgosi[25]
 Portugal: Tridente-class submarine NRP Tridente - from 24 June 2021 to 20 August 2021[29][30]

Planned but never deployed:
 Greece: Hydra-class frigate Hydra expected May 2020, but not deployed[31]


Government of National Accord

In April 2020, the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya objected to the operation on the ground that it would affect the supply of arms from Turkey.[32]


In May 2020, Malta pulled out of Operation IRINI and threatened to veto EU funds for the Operation, in a move that could have impacted on the Turkish-Libyan agreement. [33] [34] Malta has complained to the European Commission that it does not give enough support to Malta on the issue of migration,[35] the EU responded that “The Irini operation was conceived to stop the fighting in Libya and political stabilisation is a precondition to stop the migrant wave. So to stop the migration push, we need to politically stabilise Libya, and this depends on [Irini],”[36] while Turkey has said that it will provide concrete and effective assistance to Malta.[37] In addition, Malta, Turkey and the GNA have issued a joint statement expressing reservations about the IRINI.[37]


In early June 2020, Russia was the only Security Council member which raised concerns about renewing authorization for the Operation, which was due to expire on 10 June.[38]


In June and July 2020, Turkey criticized the operation as being "not objective"[39] and claimed that the operation is supporting Khalifa Haftar.[40] In June of the same year, European diplomats and officials stated that Turkey was blocking EU attempts to secure NATO’s help for the operation.[41] In addition, in August 2020, Turkey criticized Germany for its participation in the operation, after Germany decided to send a frigate in August.[39] In November 2020, the Turkey’s National Security Council said that Turkey will take necessary steps in every field against the Operation Irini, after a German frigate, participating in the operation, tried to search a Turkish-flagged freighter near Libya.[42] In addition, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation ex officio for the incident.[43] Furthermore, Turkey has denied the inspection of suspect Turkish vessels in many occasions (see the "Incidents" section below).


In May 2020, a French war ship participating in the operation intercepted the Gabon-flagged oil tanker Jal Laxmi off the coast of Tobruk and stopped it from docking in Tobruk. The vessel had not received authorization from the Tripoli-based Libyan National Oil Corporation. Following this event, Russia raised concerns regarding the operation's authorization.[44]

On 10 June 2020, the Greek frigate Spetsai under the command of IRINI operation attempted to inspect the Tanzanian-flagged cargo vessel Çirkin which was suspected of carrying arms to Libya, but was ordered to retreat after warnings from Turkish frigates accompanying the cargo vessel. According to sources, the Turkish commander's message was that 'the Turkish ship is under the protection of the Turkish Republic'.[45][46][47][48] Later, on 17 June 2020, France also accused Turkish ships of harassing a French warship from the NATO Operation Sea Guardian as they tried to inspect the Çirkin and that the Turkish Navy was using their NATO call signs while accompanying Turkish vessels suspected of breaking the UN arms embargo on Libya.[49] According to French officials, when the French ship tried to inspect the vessel, the Turkish vessel switched off its tracking system, masked its ID number and refused to say where she was going, while the Turkish frigates flashed their radar lights three times against the French warship, suggesting a missile strike was imminent.[50] On the other hand, Turkish officials, denied that the warship was harassed and claimed that the French warship did not establish communications with the Turkish vessel during the incident and provided fuel for the Turkish vessel.[51][52][53] At a request of France,[54] NATO stated on June 18 that it will investigate the incident.[55][56] NATO carried out 3-week investigation into the incident, producing a 130-page report published on 1 July. The report did not include a "statement supporting the French claims that Turkish warships harassed the French warship by locking its radar on it".[57] The report of NATO's investigation was never released publicly.[58] Diplomats told Reuters that the investigation was too sensitive to discuss in public and does not apportion blame, adding that NATO wanted to keep Turkey onside and for this there was no willingness to point a finger.[59] On 21 September 2020, the EU sanctioned the Turkish maritime company Avrasya Shipping which operates the Çirkin freighter, because the vessel was found to have violated the arms embargo in Libya in May and June 2020.[60]

On 22 November 2020, the German frigate Hamburg, which participated in the operation, intercepted the Turkish 16,000-tonne freighter, Rosalina-A (or Rosaline-A), about 200 km (125 miles) north of the Libyan city of Benghazi. Soldiers from the frigate boarded the Turkish freighter in order to search it but had to abandon checks and withdraw after Turkey protested. According to the German spokesman, the Hamburg had followed standard procedure by waiting four hours for approval from the flag country, and then boarding. Later, once the objection arrived, they withdrew. The German defense ministry spokesman said that “By the time the soldiers left the ship, they had not found anything suspicious”. Turkey said that the search team had violated international law by not waiting for permission from Turkey, adding that the ship was carrying various materials such as food and paint.[61] Furthermore, Turkey has summoned the envoys of the European Union, Germany and Italy to Ankara in order to protest against the operation.[62] Turkey condemned the incident, saying that Operation Irini is a biased mission that targets Turkey and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya.

European Union in an official statement said that the operation IRINI gave 5 hours notice to Turkey (4 hours in line with the international maritime practice + 1 hour extension at the request of the Turkish Embassy in Rome, where Operation IRINI’s Headquarters are located). After the time elapsed and no answer has received from Turkey, the soldiers boarded the ship and started the inspection in accordance with internationally agreed procedures including NATO procedures. Later, when Turkey formally and with delay notified of its refusal to grant the permission for inspection, the search operation terminated and the soldiers left the ship. Until then, nothing suspicious has found on the ship. In addition, the statement reminded that the IRINI operation is in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions 2292 (2016) and 2526 (2020) and that the UN Security Council Resolution 2292 (2016) calls upon all flag States to cooperate with inspections. These resolutions are binding for all UN Member States, including the Turkey.[63] A secret EU report cited by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, indicated that the Turkish vessel had long been watched on suspicion of making illegal arms shipments. In addition, the Der Spiegel reported that the operation Irini's military analysts, in a report for United Nations, had previously spotted arms being unloaded in the Libyan port of Misrata in satellite images. Furthermore, EU report's authors said that suspicious cargo was again sighted in November while the ship was docked in the Turkish port of Ambarli.[64]

Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into the incident on 27 November 2020, which is not expected to lead to arrests or the extradition of officials involved in the search.[65]

In July 2021, Irini's forces intercepted a Zambian flag vessel called MV Gauja for being suspected of transporting illegal arms from Morocco to Libya. The Zambian government said that it does not own the vessel and that it is Russian operated.[66]

In September 2021, an IRINI's report revealed that Turkey refused the inspection of Turkish ships heading to Libya 6 times.[67]

In May 2022, Turkey refused to accept the inspection of the Turkish flagged vessel MSKosovak which headed to the port of Misrata in Libya.[68][69]

In July 2022, Irini inspected the Equatorial Guinea flagged vessel MV VICTORY RORO and found that it breached the UN arms embargo. The vessel was suspected, since it had been identified by UN Panel of Experts of transferring military equipment in Libya before under the name MV LUCCELLO and the flag of the Comoros.[70][71]

In October 2022, Irini asked for the inspection of the Turkish flagged vessel MV Matilde A, which was heading to Libya, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2292 on the arms embargo on Libya, but Turkey refused to accept it.[72][73] Same month, Irini found and seized military vehicles in the merchant vessel MV MEERDIJK[74] coming from the United Arab Emirates and heading to Libya.[75]

In the October 2022 Irini's report, it is mentioned that Turkey has denied the inspection of suspect Turkish vessels on nine occasions since the launch of the operation.[76]

Presence on web and social media

  • Operation IRINI web site
  • Operation IRINI on Twitter
  • Operation IRINI on Facebook
  • Operation IRINI on LinkedIn

See also


  1. ^ a b c "EU launches Operation IRINI to enforce Libya arms embargo". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Operation Irini has declared the Full Operation Capability". www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Operation Irini sets sail". www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  4. ^ "About Us". www.operationirini.eu.
  5. ^ "EU to extend Libya arms embargo mission to 2023". www.euractiv.com. 2021-03-18. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  6. ^ a b c "Deployed units". www.operationirini.eu.
  7. ^ "HS Aegean, the new flagship of Operation Irini". www.operationirini.eu.
  8. ^ "Atlantique" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu.
  9. ^ "FRA Falcon 50" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  10. ^ "Deutschland bietet Seefernaufklärer P-3C Orion für Mittelmeer-Mission an". welt.de. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  11. ^ "2020.04.01 Germany offers P-3C Orion maritime reconnaissance aircraft for a Mediterranean mission" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  12. ^ "GER PC3 ORION" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
  13. ^ "GRC EMB-145H" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  14. ^ "ITA Predator" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  15. ^ "LUX SW3 MERLIN III" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  16. ^ "An-28B1R BRYZA" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Jean Bart" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  18. ^ "FS Latouche-Tréville" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  19. ^ "FGS Hamburg" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  20. ^ "Germany sends frigate to patrol off Libya as part of EU operation Irini". www.infomigrants.net. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  21. ^ "Farewells and thanks to the FGS Hamburg". www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Uboot "U 35" nimmt an EU-Operation "Irini" im Mittelmeer teil". www.presseportal.de. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  23. ^ "U-Boot "U35" kehrt aus EU-Einsatz "Irini" wieder". www.presseportal.de. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  24. ^ "HS Spetsai" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  25. ^ a b "Units no longer involved". www.operationirini.eu.
  26. ^ "HS Limnos" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  27. ^ "ITS San Giorgio" (PDF). www.operationirini.eu. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  28. ^ "ITS Margottini". www.twitter.com. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  29. ^ admin (2021-06-24). "Portuguese Navy NRP Tridente Submarine Joins NATO SEA Guardian and EU IRINI Mission". MilitaryLeak. Retrieved 2021-08-21.
  30. ^ "NRP Tridente returned on the 20th of August to the Lisbon Naval Base".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ "Hellenic Navy frigate HS HYDRA leaves Operation IRINI due to technical problems". navalnews.net. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Il Foglio: GNA Refuses Operation IRINI Because It Will Disrupt Arms Supplies From Turkeyr". almarsad.co. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  33. ^ "Malta pulls out of new EU Libya sea patrols in migration row". www.reuters.com. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  34. ^ "Malta's Withdrawal from EU Operation IRINI Signals Support for Turkish-Libyan Corridor". libyareview.com. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  35. ^ "Malta rattles EU with Irini withdrawal, Macron and Merkel schedule calls". maltatoday.com. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  36. ^ "EU foreign minister plays down Malta deal on Irini withdrawal". maltatoday.com. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
  37. ^ a b "Turkey and Malta are increasing cooperation to bring stability to Libya". trtworld.com. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  38. ^ "EU tries to reassure Russia over Operation Irini". dailysabah.com. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  39. ^ a b "Libya: Turkey Criticizes Germany On Enforcing Libya Arms Embargo". allafrica.com. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  40. ^ "Turkey slams EU's Irini Operation in Med Sea". hurriyetdailynews.com. Retrieved 27 July 2020.
  41. ^ "Turkey the key to unlocking NATO help for EU naval operation". washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on 17 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  42. ^ Turkey will take necessary steps against illegal vessel search: National Security Council
  43. ^ Turkish prosecutor launches investigation over interception of Turkish vessel in E Med
  44. ^ "Europe tries to reassure Russia over Libya arms embargo mission". today.rtl.lu. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  45. ^ "Turkey blocked EU embargo check on ship near Libya". arabnews.com. Retrieved 11 June 2020.
  46. ^ "Turkish ship suspected of carrying arms to Libya spotted in central Med". ekathimerini.com. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  47. ^ "Drama in the Med: Greek navy tries to stop cargo ship accompanied by Turkish frigates". middleeasteye.net. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  48. ^ "Greek navy backs off after trying to stop Turkish frigate en route to Libya". dailysabah.com. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  49. ^ "NATO must deal with, not ignore Turkish problem: French official". reuters.com. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  50. ^ "Turkey navy accused of harassing French frigate in Med". aroundworld24.com. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  51. ^ "Turkey navy accused of harassing French frigate in Med". middleeastmonitor.com. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  52. ^ Ozer, Sarp (18 June 2020). "Turkey denies harassing French vessel in Mediterranean". Anadolu Agency. Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  53. ^ "Turkish Military Official Denies French Claim That Warship Was Harassed". nytimes.com. Archived from the original on 19 June 2020. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  54. ^ "How NATO Can Avoid a Strategic Decoupling in the Eastern Mediterranean". Center for Strategic and International Studies. July 17, 2020.
  55. ^ "NATO to investigate Mediterranean incident with Turkey". reuters.com. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  56. ^ "Operation Irini: Turkey slams EU mission to contain arms to Libya". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  57. ^ "Akdeniz'de Türk-Fransız çekişmesi: NATO'da ilk raundu Ankara mı kazandı?". bbc.com (in Turkish). Retrieved 13 August 2020.
  58. ^ "How NATO Can Avoid a Strategic Decoupling in the Eastern Mediterranean". Center for Strategic and International Studies. 17 July 2020.
  59. ^ "NATO keeps France-Turkey probe under wraps as tempers flare". reuters.com. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  60. ^ "COUNCIL IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) 2020/1309 of 21 September 2020 implementing Article 21(2) of Regulation (EU) 2016/44 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Libya". eur-lex.europa.eu. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  61. ^ "Germany says Turkey stopped it checking ship for arms-running to Libya". reuters.com. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  62. ^ "Turkey summons EU, German, Italian envoys over vessel search bid". aljazeera.com. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  63. ^ "Operation IRINI: Statement by the Spokesperson on the recent inspection of a Turkish vessel". europa.eu. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  64. ^ "Turkey opens probe into German search of Libya-bound freighter". dw.com. Retrieved 27 November 2020.
  65. ^ AP, Daily Sabah with (2020-11-27). "Turkey launches probe into Germany's unlawful search of Libya-bound ship". Daily Sabah. Retrieved 2020-11-29.
  66. ^ "Government Distances Itself From Intercepted Illegal Arms Ship, As State House Dismisses Links To Zingman". zambianobserver. Retrieved 2021-07-28.
  67. ^ "IRINI: Turkey Refused Inspection of Ships in Libya". libyareview. Retrieved 2021-10-09.
  68. ^ "Operation IRINI: Turkey Refused a Request to Inspect a Suspicious Vessel Bound for Misrata". almarsad. Retrieved 2022-05-22.
  69. ^ @EUNAVFOR_MED (May 20, 2022). "#IRINI🇪🇺regrets yesterday's denial by Turkey🇹🇷of a flag State consent request to inspect MVKosovak in accordance with #UNSCR 2292 on the arms embargo on #Libya🇱🇾" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  70. ^ @EUNAVFOR_MED (July 20, 2022). "EU🇪🇺 Operation #IRINI found a cargo in breach of the UN🇺🇳 #ArmsEmbargo on #Libya🇱🇾 during the inspection of MV VICTORY RORO. Dozens of vehicles modified for military use were discovered and seized. The 🚢 has been diverted to a European port" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  71. ^ "EU Operation IRINI found a cargo in breach of the UN arms embargo on Libya during the inspection of a ship off the coast of Libya". operationirini. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  72. ^ "Turkey refuses inspection of its ship in Libya". libyaobserver. Retrieved 2022-10-13.
  73. ^ @EUNAVFOR_MED (October 10, 2022). "Today #Turkey 🇹🇷 denied a flag state consent request from #IRINI 🇪🇺 to inspect MV MATILDE A in accordance with #UNSCR 2292 on the #ArmsEmbargo on #Libya 🇱🇾. @UN Security Council calls upon all UN 🇺🇳 members to cooperate with inspections" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  74. ^ @EUNAVFOR_MED (November 9, 2022). "EU🇪🇺 Operation #EUNAVFORMED #IRINI seized illegal cargo in breach of the UN🇺🇳 #ArmsEmbargo on #Libya. Dozens of vehicles modified for military use were discovered during an inspection of 🚢 MV MEERDIJK" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  75. ^ "EU's Operation IRINI seizes armoured vehicles bound for Libya". libyaupdate. Retrieved 2022-11-10.
  76. ^ "Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI - October report". www.eeas.europa.eu. Retrieved 2022-11-11.
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