October 8, 2015 / 4:57 PM / 2 years ago

U.N. council due to vote Friday on EU migrant mission off Libya

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Friday on whether to approve European naval operations aimed at seizing and disposing of vessels operated by human traffickers in the high seas off Libya, diplomats said.

Russia, which has security council veto power, had indicated it supported the draft resolution, but it was unclear how Moscow would vote, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The approval of the operations would constitute the second of three phases of an European Union naval mission intended to help stem the flow of migrants and refugees into Europe, which has escalated into a major international crisis in recent months.

The third phase would involve European operations in Libyan territorial waters and coastal areas.

Libya initially objected to the draft U.N. resolution on the high seas mission, but Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi wrote to the Security Council on Tuesday that the country’s concerns had been allayed and it agreed to the final draft text.

Russia has been wary of allowing the 15-member Security Council to give blanket authorization for the use of force and demanded precise language defining the European mission.

Russia has accused the United States and its European allies of tricking fellow council members in 2011 into approving the use of force in Libya to protect civilians, but then using it to support Libyan rebels and oust Muammar Gaddafi, who was subsequently killed. Russia abstained from that council vote.

Libya has since descended into chaos with two competing governments backed by militias scrambling for control of the oil-producing country. A power vacuum has allowed Islamic State militants to gain a foothold in the North African state.

U.N. member states last Friday pushed warring factions in Libya to agree to a U.N.-brokered peace deal with a promise of international help to rebuild the country and a warning not to further delay an end to the conflict.

The International Organization for Migration, which includes 157 member states, said this week some 557,899 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean, and nearly 3,000 people have died attempting the crossing.

Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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