Russia demands 'no fly zone' over Lebanon and Cyprus

Russia demands 'no fly zone' over Lebanon and Cyprus
2 min read
20 November, 2015
Lebanon may close its airspace for three consecutive days after receiving an official request from the Russians, say senior aviation officials.
Lebanon may close its airspace for three days following Russian request [AFP/Getty]
Passenger flights must avoid Lebanon's airspace for three days, according to an official request from Russia to Lebanese aviation authorities.

The temporary suspension of civil aviation would likely begin at midnight on Friday, but officials are reportedly discussing alternative flight paths over Cyprus, according to reports.

The fate of passengers booked onto flights into and out of the country remains unclear.

The leader of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), Walid Jumblatt, told al-Araby al-Jadeed he stood by comments made on Twitter on Friday afternoon.

"It seems that the Russians want to bomb Bab al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli, north of the country," Jumblatt posted, with an air of sarcasm.

Bab al-Tabbaneh's majority Sunni Muslim residents have clashed with Alawite residents of the Jabal Mohsen district in Tripoli on several occasions in the past. Russia backs the Alawite-led regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Lebanon's industry minister, Ghazi Zeaiter, also confirmed reports, saying that the "ministry received official telegrams from Russia regarding this matter".

"It is being followed up by the [Lebanese] Civil Aviation Authority," he added.

Informed political sources told al-Araby that a Russian delegation from the Civil Aviation Authority recently visited both Lebanon and Cyprus to ask for the suspension of civilian flights over both countries. The delegation met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Zeaiter, the sources said.

Zeaiter told al-Araby he had not met any Russian delegation.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Jubran Bassil visited Russia last week and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Al-Araby has received information that Bassil abruptly cancelled a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister, who was due to visit Lebanon after an appointment was set for him to meet Lavrov in Moscow.

Locals spotted several Russian helicopters on the northern Lebanese-Syrian borders, according to a Lebanese broadcaster NBN.

Local sources from the border area of Wadi Khaled, told al-Araby that two helicopters transporting troops, accompanied by a third equipped with missiles flew at low altitude over the border town of Bokayaa (north-east Lebanon) to the outskirts of a town called Mashta Hasan, a distance of nearly three kilometres.