The Libyan capital’s only functioning airport will resume operations after being closed for two months following bombardment by forces loyal to eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Transport Minister Milad Maatoug of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) on Tuesday announced the reopening of Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport but said operations would not resume immediately.
“The resumption will be gradual,” Maatoug said at a joint press conference with UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame. “It could take two weeks for the airport to be totally operational.”
Located on the city’s eastern outskirts, the airport was targeted by air strikes and artillery fire in the conflict pitting the GNA with Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Haftar launched a military operation in early April to seize control of Tripoli, which he said was taken hostage by a host of GNA-aligned militias that took advantage of the war-torn country’s power vacuum to enrich themselves.
GNA supporters, meanwhile, view Haftar as an authoritarian who is not interested in sharing power and intends to impose one-man rule.
The former military airbase had been Tripoli’s sole functioning airport until a rocket attack on September 1 that wounded four people.
Flights since then were diverted to Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) to the east.
Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, said they are targeting “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.
UN special envoy Ghassan Salame said he was assured that Mitiga was not being used for military purposes and “there is no excuse for it to be a military target”.