Haftar forces block UN flights in and out of Libya

CAIRO: Forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar have blocked flights carrying United Nations staff to and from Libya, hampering humanitarian and mediation efforts, the UN mission said on Wednesday.
Haftar’s eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) has on several occasions in recent weeks refused to grant permission for the regular UN flights to land, the UN 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 UN flights could be a possible target.
The LNA has been trying since last April to capture the capital Tripoli from the internationally recognised government but has failed to breach the city’s defences.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame has been mediating between Haftar and the Tripoli government.
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.
Eastern officials have accused Salame of being biased against them, charges denied by the United Nations.
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 neighbouring Tunisia.
— Reuters