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Foreign airlines stop flying to Libya

Turkish Airlines, the last foreign airline that was still flying to Libya, has suspended all flights over concerns about security in the large oil-producing North African state of Libya.
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January 6, 2015

This story originally appeared on themedialine.org.

Turkish Airlines, the last foreign airline that was still flying to Libya, has suspended all flights over concerns about security in the large oil-producing North African state of Libya. It was the latest example that three years after the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Gadhafi, the country remains mired in a civil war and has few prospects of ending the violence.

“State institutions have collapsed – police are either in prison or have fled the country,” Madga Mugrabi, a Libya expert at Amnesty International, told The Media Line. “Today there is armed conflict from different militias that evolved after 2011 (when Gadhafi was overthrown) and have pursued different agendas.”

Tensions are running high after Libyan air force jets bombed a Greek-operated oil tanker that was chartered by Libya’s national oil company, killing two crew members. The military spokesman said the tanker had failed to submit to an inspection before entering the port. Some military officials said the tanker was carrying Islamist fighters to the port of Derna, which has been controlled by Islamists for the past two years.

There are currently two competing governments vying for control in Libya. The elected government of Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni was forced to leave the capital of Tripoli last year after Libya Dawn, an umbrella of armed groups, seized the city and forced Thinni’s government to withdraw to the eastern city of Tobruk. These armed groups have formed their own rival parliament and government and effectively control parts of western and central Libya.

“I don’t think either government can claim legitimacy,” Richard Dalton, a Libya expert at Chatham House in London, and a former ambassador to Libya told The Media Line. “They are both resorting to arms and human rights abuses are taking place daily.”

The United Nations has appointed a special envoy to broker peace talks between the rival governments, but talks have been repeatedly delayed, most recently this week.

Human rights groups say there is a proliferation of weapons that is troubling.

“There is not a single home that does not have a rifle,” Mugrabi said. “When there is a problem they go out to the streets and start fighting. There is a huge danger that Libya will be plunged into a cycle of fighting and tit-for-tat abductions. People are completely terrorized.”

There is concern in the international community that the Islamic State (ISIS) could also continue to make gains in the country. Some of the militias have already transferred their loyalty to ISIS and France has said that its troops located south of Libya are ready to strike extremists who cross the border. French President Francois Hollande urged the UN to take action to try to stop the growing violence in Libya and the transfer of arms to radical groups.

Libyan leaders have called on the Arab world to intervene in Libya.

“I call formally on the Arab League to intervene to protect the vital installations in all of Libya and to prevent all these terrorist formations from using violence,” Libyan parliament speaker Aquila Issa told reporters in Cairo recently. “Foreign military intervention in Libya is rejected. If we need any military intervention, we will ask our Arab brothers.”

The international community has been slow to intervene, charged former Ambassador Dalton. Egypt, Sudan and the UAE have given support to the elected government in Tobruk, while Turkey and Qatar have supported Libyan Dawn coalition in Tripoli.”

“The community is giving Libya low priority perhaps because of the proliferation of crises in the Middle East,” Dalton said. “Neither government in Libya is able to win military. The international community should use incentive and disincentives to get the parties into a serious dialogue. At the same time, I believe that the chances of either achieving a united position internationally or reaching a cease fire are very low.”

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