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Forces loyal to the UN-backed government have scored a series of victories against Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar with the help of Turkish drones. UN officials said warring parties have now agreed to ceasefire talks.
Forces loyal to the Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) announced on Wednesday that they had retaken Tripoli International Airport, marking a major blow to general-turned-warlord Khalifa Haftar.
"Our forces have fully liberated Tripoli International Airport," said Mohamad Gnounou, a spokesman for forces supporting the UN-backed government in the Libyan capital.
The civilian airport has been out of service since it was heavily damaged in 2014. However, it represents a strategic position on the outskirts of the capital as it lies on a key highway leading to central Tripoli.
Gnounou said the pro-government forces were now "chasing Haftar's militias, who are fleeing towards Gasr Gen Gashir," which lies roughly 20 kilometers (13 miles) south of Tripoli.
Over the past month, pro-government forces have claimed a series of victories over Haftar's forces. Last year, Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) had made major inroads near the capital, including capturing the international airport.
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Earlier on Wednesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said warring parties had agreed to negotiate a
ceasefire. The UN has called for a global cessation of hostilities in order to allow health organizations to better tackle the novel coronavirus, including in Libya.
"The UN mission encourages the parties to de-escalate, consider a truce to enable improved delivery of humanitarian assistance and to refrain from incitement and create an environment conducive for negotiations and building trust between the parties," said Dujarric.
In February, the UN-backed government suspended ceasefire talks in Geneva after Haftar's forces attacked key positions in the capital, including its port.
Haftar, who supports a rival government in Tobruk, is supported by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Last month, the US government said Russian warplanes were deployed to Libya in support of Haftar.
The UN-backed government in Tripoli has instead received military support from Turkey, including drones that have played a key role in its latest victories against Haftar.
ls/rc (AFP, AP)