Germany, France and Italy have threatened to punish countries that fail to abide by the UN arms embargo on Libya. "We are ready to consider imposing sanctions should violations of the embargo at sea, on land or in the air continue," said a joint statement by Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, which was published on the margins of the EU special summit.

Names of states that could be eligible for sanctions are not mentioned in the declaration. France has long accused Turkey of violating the arms embargo by delivering arms to the Libyan government. Turkey in turn accuses countries such as the United Arab Emirates and France of supplying the opposite side with weapons.

Foreign actors influence Libyan civil war

In Libya, an internationally recognized but almost powerless government is fighting in the capital, Tripoli, and a counter-parliament in the east of the country, which is based on General Chalifa Haftar. The latter controlled the oil wells in the east and had recently tried to conquer Tripoli, which he did not succeed. For weeks, both sides have been preparing for a fight for the city of Sirte, which is important for oil exports.

Both warring parties are supported logistically, financially and militarily by foreign actors. The government of Prime Minister Fajis al-Sarradsch is supported by Turkey and Qatar, while Haftar is supported by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. The USA had helped Haftar in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

Some of the foreign countries that support one of the warring parties are becoming increasingly aggressive in the Libyan civil war. The US military recently announced that Russian mercenaries were said to have laid landmines around Tripoli. The so-called Wagner group, a private unit equipped by the Kremlin, made 800 to 1,200 fighters available to Haftar, according to UN experts. Russia denies playing a role in the conflict.

Egypt threatened invasion several times

For months, threats have also come from Egypt to enter the conflict directly. The Haftar camp recently actively called for military action in Egypt. The Egyptian armed forces had the right to intervene in neighboring Libya if they saw "an immediate threat to security", the parliament in Tobruk said.

Turkey had invaded Libya militarily, occupied the country and was now threatening neighboring Egypt. Last month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that an attack by Libyan government forces on Sirte was a "red line". Haftar's troops have held the city so far, but were pushed back with Turkish help after their failed offensive on Tripoli.

Civil war has raged in Libya since the downfall of long-term ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011. After a temporary relaxation of the situation, the violence escalated again. A parliamentary election failed in 2014 and numerous militias began to fight for influence.