The European Union on Thursday banned all seven Libyan airlines from operating in the airspace of the 28-nation bloc, citing threats to flight operations while the country is plagued by violent militias battling for dominance.
Libyan airfields and aircraft have been targets of recent attacks by Islamist militias and the Libyan air force, and the country’s main international airport in Tripoli has been closed since July due to severe damage.
The Libyan air force last week attacked Islamist militants at the Mitiga airfield in Tripoli, the last functioning airport in the capital. Tripoli is under the control of a coalition of armed factions that deposed the elected government and parliament, which have decamped to the eastern coastal city of Tobruk.
“Recent events in Libya have led to a situation whereby the Civil Aviation Authority is no longer able to fulfill its international obligations with regard to the safety of the Libyan aviation sector,” European Union Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in a statement issued in Brussels.
“My priority in aviation is passenger safety, which is nonnegotiable, and we stand ready to help the Libyan aviation sector as soon as the situation on the ground will allow for this,” Bulc said.
Commercial air traffic from Libya has mostly been limited to Istanbul, Turkey, and Amman, Jordan, in recent months as political chaos and armed conflict have consumed the country, which has known little stability in the three years since longtime strongman Moammar Kadafi was toppled and killed.
Libya joins 20 other countries whose airlines are banished or severely restricted in Europe’s crowded airspace. In all, 310 airlines around the world are on the European Union’s safety blacklist, many from strife-torn regions of Africa and south Asia, including Afghanistan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
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