Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar meets Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (not pictured) at the Parliament in Athens,…
FILE - Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar is pictured during a meeting with Greece's prime minister at the Parliament in Athens, Jan. 17, 2020.

The United Nations is sharply criticizing forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar for blocking flights from landing and taking off from Tripoli’s only operational airport. 

A U.N. statement Wednesday said the organization was "very concerned that preventing flights from traveling in and out of Libya will severely hinder [its work to] provide the much-needed humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable." 

Haftar's Libyan National Army declared a no-fly zone over in and around Tripoli in November and extended it last month to include Mitiga International Airport. 

The U.N.-backed government in Tripoli has defied the no-fly zone despite threats from Haftar's forces to shoot down any aircraft that violates it. 

A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Libya said that for the last three weeks, Haftar's army had not given it any guarantees that its planes would be able to fly securely. 

Fighting since 2014

Haftar's eastern-based LNA and the Libyan government in Tripoli have been fighting for power since 2014. The fighting is concentrated in the Tripoli suburbs with neither side making much progress, but it has left hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in the middle. 

Leaders from several world powers agreed at a Berlin summit last month to stop interfering in Libya, to prevent it from becoming what some diplomats call "another Syria." 

But a January cease-fire has been routinely broken and observers say arms continue to flow into the country. 

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