Cyprus: U.N. checks plane suspected of Libya embargo breach
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — United Nations inspectors have completed their examination of a small aircraft stored in Cyprus that was reportedly suspected of violating a U.N. arms embargo on Libya, an aviation official in the east Mediterranean island nation said Friday.
Charis Antoniades, chief operations officer of Cyprus’ Department of Civil Aviation, told The Associated Press the inspectors finished their inspection of the single-engine propeller Thrush 550 aircraft over a single day on Oct. 12.
Local media reports suggested that the aircraft had either taken part in combat operations in Libya, or was used to run guns in violation of an arms embargo that the U.N. Security Council imposed on the country in 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Antoniades said the aircraft first arrived at Cyprus’ main airport of Larnaca on Jul. 18, 2019, from Amman, Jordan. It flew to the island’s secondary airport in Paphos on July 31 of this year and has remained there since.
The Cypriot official said local authorities don’t have information about whom the aircraft belongs to because it’s not registered in Cyprus. He said it’s still being assessed whether the plane had undergone any conversion for military use, but “no military equipment was visible” on it when it first arrived.
The U.N. inspectors traveled to Cyprus after the world body notified Cypriot authorities in August of this year. They completed their work under the guidance of Cypriot police, Antoniades said.
The U.N. did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the nature of the aircraft’s inspection.
Earlier this year, U.N. experts said that American security contractor Erik Prince, a close ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump, violated the arms embargo against Libya along with three United Arab Emirates-based companies and their top managers during an operation to help a rebel military commander take the capital Tripoli.
The experts outlined in a report to the U.N. Security Council that “a well-funded private military company operation” called “Project Opus” was designed to provide military equipment to Khalifa Hifter, a military commander who in April 2019 launched an offensive to capture Tripoli.
Hifter’s offensive failed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the U.N.-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
Prince and another man named in the report denied any wrongdoing.