History of Maritime Interception Operations, The Former Yugoslavia (1992–1996)

The breakup of the Former Yugoslavia in the beginning of the 1990s continued
breathing life into the maritime interception model that was set up by the MIF.
While Yugoslavia was falling apart, in 1991, the UNSC adopted SC Res.
713 (1991) under Article 41, establishing an arms embargo. The adoption of SC
Res. 757 (1992) in May 1992, which put Yugoslavia under a general export
embargo of ‘all commodities and products originating from the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), prompted both NATO and WEU into
examining the question whether the organizations could support the UN decisions
by means of maritime peacekeeping operations. For NATO, this became a landmark
question because it meant that NATO would be extending its purpose from its
primary role as a collective self-defence organization to so-called ‘out of area’
operations. NATO ultimately defined its additional role to collective self-defence
during the Oslo Summit in June 1992, in which it stated in its final communiqué:
‘…we are prepared to support, on a case-by-case basis in accordance with our own
procedures, peacekeeping activities [emphasis MDF] under the responsibility of the
CSCE, including by making available Alliance’s resources and expertise.’
On 16 July 1992, NATO launched its first ‘out of area’, or non-Article 5
operation: Operation Maritime Monitor. It was also the first real naval operation
NATO ever started. Alongside NATO, the WEU launched Operation Sharp
Vigilance. After the adoption of SC Res. 787 in November 1992, in which the UNSC explicitly authorized naval enforcement of an arms embargo at sea, NATO and the WEU changed their operational names into Maritime Guard and Sharp Fence. After the adoption of SC Res. 820 in 1993, both operations were combined
into one: Operation Sharp Guard. This operation was suspended in June 1996 and
terminated on 1 October 1996, after the adoption of SC Res. 1074 (1996). The
resolution ended, after five years, all sanctions against the Former Yugoslavia.
During Sharp Guard, in 1994, the Lido II incident occurred:
The Lido II incident involved a Maltese-flagged vessel that in April 1994 left Tunisia to sail
for Croatia, with mainly petrol products as its cargo. After a first inspection by the NATO/
WEU forces while entering the Adriatic Sea it proceeded on its way to Croatia. The Lido II
however changed course to the Albanian port of Durazzo while repeating requests for
assistance as the vessel started to take water into the engine room (which later turned out to
be untrue). The master then changed course again towards Montenegro, which was off
limits due to SC Res. 820. While the Lido II sailed in the direction of Montenegro, Serbian
patrol boats came out to meet the Lido II. Dutch forces from Hr. Ms. Van Kinsbergen who
were also on scene were inserted by helicopter to take control of the vessel before it entered
the territorial waters of Montenegro. The Lido II was seized and towed to Brindisi, Italy, to
be dealt with by the Italian authorities.
Although NATO and the EU were to get even more military involved in the
crises in the Balkan region, which included Kosovo from 1999 onwards, after 1996
no MIO were conducted as part of those military operations in the Adriatic Sea.
During Operation Allied Force (AFOR) with regard to Kosovo, naval forces were
part of the operation. Despite SACEUR’s wish to establish a belligerent blockade to
cut off oil shipments to Serbia, the deployed naval forces did not fulfill such a
role. According to Diego Ruiz Palmer during the MIO conducted off the coast of
the Former Yugoslavia, ‘NATO forces, in cooperation with those of the Western
European Union, challenged over 74,000 ships, boarded and inspected at sea nearly
6,000 and diverted for inspection in port nearly 1,500.’

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