Haftar Forces Block U.N. Flights in and out of Libya

Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar have blocked flights carrying United Nations staff to and from Libya, hampering humanitarian and mediation efforts, the U.N. mission said on Wednesday, Reuters writes.

Haftar’s eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) has on several occasions in recent weeks refused to grant permission for the regular U.N. flights to land, the U.N. mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement.

“We are not receiving security assurances from the LNA for the landing of aircraft in western Libya and it’s been going on for at least three weeks,” UNSMIL spokesman Jean Alam said, adding that this was affecting the mission’s flights and humanitarian ones.

A humanitarian source said that Haftar was imposing a “no-fly zone” for Tripoli and there were concerns that U.N. flights could be a possible target, Reuters added.

The LNA has been trying since last April to capture the capital Tripoli from the internationally recognized government but has failed to breach the city’s defenses.

U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame has been mediating between Haftar, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and the Tripoli government supported by Turkey.

But relations have been difficult as UNSMIL has condemned air strikes blamed on the LNA, though mostly without mentioning the force by name. A second rounds of talks are scheduled between the two rival military factions in Geneva next week.

UNSMIL has a large base in Tripoli and also provides humanitarian relief for migrants and people displaced by the conflict. Alam said that UNSMIL has about 170 staff, spread between Libya and neighboring Tunisia.

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