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Rockets target Libya airport ahead of regional peace talks

Rockets target Libya airport ahead of regional peace talks
Representative image Image Credit: Pixabay

Rocket fire targeted the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport on Wednesday, dealing another setback to peace efforts a day before regional foreign ministers meet in Algeria to discuss the crisis. Tripoli's Mitiga airport was forced to suspend all flights for several hours after it was targeted by six Grad rockets, just nine days after it reopened following a truce.

The airport has been hit multiple times since the start of an offensive by forces led by eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar to seize the capital from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). World powers have stepped up efforts in recent weeks to find a political solution to the grinding conflict, with neighbouring Algeria to become the latest country to host a meeting Thursday to discuss ways forward.

The Algerian foreign ministry said chief diplomats from Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Mali would meet in Algiers to advance "a political settlement to the crisis through an inclusive dialogue between all parties". Algeria, which has stayed neutral in the Libyan conflict, shares a border of almost 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) with its neighbour, rocked by violence since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi by NATO-backed insurgents.

It did not say whether Libyan delegations had been invited to the meeting, but the GNA Foreign Minister Mohamad Tahar Siala, issued a statement saying he was "refusing" to take part due to the presence of his counterpart in the rival administration backed by Haftar. The meeting comes after a summit last Sunday in Berlin, which saw world leaders commit to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to upholding a weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the conflict.

The summit also saw the formation of a military commission comprising five GNA loyalists and five Haftar delegates who will seek to define ways of consolidating the ceasefire. On Tuesday, the UN Security Council urged the parties to reach a long-term ceasefire deal paving the way for a political process aimed at ending the conflict.

Despite repeated appeals from the UN's envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, Tripoli's GNA-held airport has been the target of several air raids and rocket strikes since Haftar's forces launched their offensive in April. Located east of the capital, Mitiga is a former military airbase used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport was heavily damaged in fighting in 2014.

GNA forces spokesman Mohammed Gnunu branded the strikes as a "flagrant threat" to the safety of air traffic and a "new violation" of the most recent ceasefire. Haftar's forces accuse the GNA of using Mitiga to attack their troops in southern Tripoli, something the GNA denies.

They did not immediately respond to Wednesday's accusations from the GNA, but did announce they had shot down a Turkish drone after it took off from the airport. Turkey has backed the GNA, deploying troops to Libya since early January under a controversional November deal with the Tripoli-based administration.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected in the Algerian capital on Sunday at the start of a two-day visit also tied to the Libyan conflict. Turkey's top diplomat said Wednesday that Haftar was the only obstacle to a peace deal.

"Together with Russia... we spent some efforts and there has been a ceasefire," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the World Economic Forum in Davos. "Then we got together in Berlin and we committed there to a sustainable truce and ceasefire. Sarraj did. But Haftar did not make any announcement, as he did not sign the joint statement in Moscow" prior to the Berlin conference.

Germany's top diplomat Heiko Maas is also expected in Algiers Thursday, the Algerian foreign ministry said. Algiers has hosted a string of foreign leaders and envoys for talks on the crisis, including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the top diplomats of Egypt, Italy, Turkey and former colonial power France. (AFP) RAX


(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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