CAIRO (AP) — One of Libya’s rival primer ministers on Monday returned to the capital of Tripoli from Italy on a charter flight by a commercial airliner, the first direct flight between the two countries in a decade.

Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah, who heads the Tripoli-based government, boarded the flight from Fiumicino airport in Rome. Flight AZ894 is operated by Italy’s national airline, ITA Airways.

“From Rome to Tripoli through the Italian airways, ITA,” Dbeibah wrote on Twitter attaching a photo of the flight ticket. The flight landed in Mitiga airport, the only functioning airport in the Libyan capital.

Dbeibah said Monday that Libyans would be able to book direct flights to Italy in September after the Italian government agreed earlier this month to lift a 10-year-long ban on civil aviation in the North African nation.

He said Sunday that flights between Libya and Italy would help pave the way for the opening of airspace with other countries. Dbeibah said his government would work to resume flights between Rome and the Libyan eastern city of Benghazi, according to his office.

Oil-rich Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. In the disarray that followed, the country split into rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.

The eastern-based government is headed by Prime Minister Ossama Hamad, who was appointed the country’s House of Representatives after Libya failed to hold elections back in December 2021. Hamad’s government is backed by powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, whose forces control eastern and southern Libya.

Dbeibah is a close ally of the Italian government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. He was in Rome attending a summit that aimed at curbing the flow of migrants to Europe.

Libya is the dominant transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to make it to Europe.


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