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Libya flights to Italy resume after nearly 10 years

Passengers board the first Libyan-operated flight from Tripoli to Rome in nearly a decade at Mitiga airport
— Tripoli (AFP)

A Rome-bound aircraft departed on Saturday from Libya's capital, restarting flights to Italy after a nearly decade-long suspension due to an EU ban, authorities in Tripoli said.

The European Union in 2014 halted flights operated by Libyan airlines and banned them from entering member states' airspace, as the war-torn North African country was mired in intense fighting.

Saturday's flight took off from Tripoli's Mitiga airport. It was operated by Libya-based Medsky Airways, which offers a twice-weekly direct connection to the Italian capital.

Restarting flights is "part of intensive government efforts to lift the European ban on Libyan civil aviation", said Libya's UN-recognised government on Facebook.

Medsky Airways was launched in 2022, the year after EU member Malta announced it would allow flights to and from Libya.

It was unclear how the airline was able to circumvent the EU ban, which remains in place.

The Europan ban was imposed after a coalition of mostly Islamist militias called "Fajr Libya" seized Tripoli following weeks of fighting that caused massive damage to the city's international airport.

Successive Libyan governments have since pushed for the ban to be lifted.

Abdelhamid Dbeibah, the prime minister of the Tripoli-based government, said in early July that "the Italian government has informed us of its decision to lift the air embargo imposed on Libyan civil aviation for 10 years".

Italy, Libya's former colonial power, and the Mediterranean island nation of Malta are now the only European countries to have resumed flights with Libya.

Rome has not officially commented on the move.

For much of the past decade, Libyans had to transit through Tunis, Istanbul or Cairo to reach Europe by air.

Oil-rich Libya plunged into years of chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed strongman Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The country remains divided between two rival administrations, one in Tripoli and the other in Libya's east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.