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Libya Bans Swiss Flights

  • Lisa Schlein

Libya has banned Switzerland's national carrier, Swiss International Air Lines, from flying to Tripoli. This is the latest twist in ongoing diplomatic row between countries over the arrest of Moammar Gadhafi's son, Hannibal.

'Technical reasons' prompted cancellation

Switzerland's national carrier had three weekly flights from Zurich to Tripoli until mid-July when the Libyan authorities reduced them to one, citing "technical reasons." Swiss Air Lines spokeswoman Andrea Kreuzer says the company received a letter saying it had to stop its last remaining flight.

"The reason given in the letter was the same as in July that for technical reasons related to the execution of the Tripoli International Airport Project, we are not allowed for the moment to fly between Zurich and Tripoli," she said. "As we had to stop the flights for the time being we can not say what impacts this has and we do not publish any booking figures for single flights… Regarding our passengers, we are, of course about to inform all our passengers to book on other flights.

Kreuzer says Swiss is in touch with the Libyan authorities regarding the resumption of service between the two countries. For the time being, she says, the situation remains under discussion.

"No, we were informed by the civil aviation office of Libya that we have to stop for the time being until further notice," she said.

Arrest of Gadhafi's son, wife, triggered tension between two countries

The row between Libya and Switzerland erupted after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, Hannibal and his wife, Aline, were arrested in Geneva during the summer. They were charged with assaulting two domestic staff. The couple was released after the servants received compensation and withdrew their charges.

But, this set off a series of tit-for-tat measures, which seriously threatened diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Libya arrested two Swiss nationals shortly after Hannibal Gadhafi and his wife were released on bail and left Switzerland. The Libyan authorities also forced Swiss businesses to close their offices. They cut the number of weekly Swiss flights to Tripoli from three to one and threatened to stop crude oil deliveries to Switzerland.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry has been in talks with Libya since the dispute broke out and officials say they thought relations were on the mend. Apparently, they were mistaken.

Mr. Gadhafi has neither forgotten nor forgiven, what he considers to be, an insult to his family. He continues to demand an apology from Switzerland for the so-called "abuse of Libyan diplomats and business people by the Geneva police."

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