Mogadishu- Somalia (PANA) -- Authorities in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland have suspended flights by European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) planes over payment of landing and airport operational fees.
Sources told PANA Thursday the Somaliland authorities took the decision after ECHO refused to pay an undisclosed amount of United States dollars for its planes to land at Hargeisa airport.
Consequently, for two week the relief agency has not shuttled humanitarian aid workers, relief items and pouches to Somaliland, the sources said.
For several years, ECHO has been operating five daily flights to and from Somaliland, ferrying relief workers free of charge, mainly to and from the Kenya capital Nairobi to Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland, and others towns within Somaliland where aid agencies engage in humanitarian activities.
It also operated a twice-weekly cargo aircraft.
An official at the ECHO liaison office in Hargeisa, who requested anonymity, said the agency refused to heed the demands because the rules governing relief bodies forbids them from paying fees and taxes of such nature.
"The fact is that we are not engaged in commercial activities, instead we are offering free flights to only humanitarian workers operating in Somaliland, who are helping the people," he said.
The official said the decision has left some aid workers stranded in Nairobi and field offices that are only accessible by planes.
Figures obtained from the Ministry of Planning shows 53 international aid agencies operate in Somaliland at various locations.
When contacted, the Director General of the Somaliland civil aviation department, Ahmed Mohammed Gulled, said discussions with representative of ECHO were underway to resolve the current stand-off.
Meanwhile, opposition figures in Somaliland have demanded the government to withdrew its demands and allow the resumption of the relief flights unconditionally.
In April this year, humanitarian activities were suspended for two months in Somaliland after unknown gunmen killed four aid workers within six months.
The foreign aid workers resumed work only after the government convinced the Somali Aid Co-ordination Board (SACB), a body in charge of aid workers operating in Somalia, that it would ensure the safety of relief personnel in all regions of Somaliland.