The German frigate, “Hamburg,” set sail from Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany on Tuesday. It is carrying 250 soldiers and has departed at the start of a five-month mission.
It is expected to reach its Mediterranean patrol zone off the Libyan coast by mid-August and will be part of the EU Operation Irini, launched to enforce a United Nations embargo on the flow of weapons into Libya, collect data on Libya’s illegal oil exports as well as its migrant smuggling crisis.
On July 17, the Rome-based Italian San Giorgio took over the mission as the flagship after being assigned by the EU.
On July 15, French Navy Dassault Falcon 50 made a surveillance mission for the first time as Irini asset. The aircraft departed from NAS Lorient and made a stop in NAS Hyeres. After a fuel stop in Sigonella AB the Falcon left the Sicilian airbase to return to its home base.
By this, Irini’s mission has been completed with least 20 European countries contributing to it in one way or another.
Greece, France, Germany, Luxemburg, and Poland have been deployed in Central and Eastern Mediterranean.
Irini replaces the controversial Operation Sophia, set up in 2015 to fight people-smuggling across the Mediterranean.
Despite the new reinforcements, European diplomatic sources in Paris are skeptic about Irini's ability to accomplish its first mission, which is preventing the flow of arms.
Sources have recalled what happened on June 10 when Turkish warships flashed their radar lights three times at the French warship Courbet in the eastern Mediterranean.
Courbet was on a NATO mission to check whether a Turkish vessel was smuggling arms to Libya after it turned off its transponder, failed to identify itself and did not give its final destination.
The same thing happened with a Greek frigate and probably in the same place, they noted.
According to French sailors, cargo ships loaded with weapons do not reveal their true identity and claim that they are heading to Tunisian coasts, then they veer left to Misrata port to unload their cargo.