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Nato, Libya agreement paves way for limited commercial flights

The Nato-Libya flights agreement being signed by Libyan Provisional Government Transport Minister Anwar El Feitori and Lt General Ralph J. Jodice for Nato. Also in the picture is Finance Minister Tonio Fenech. Photo: Jason Borg

The Nato-Libya flights agreement being signed by Libyan Provisional Government Transport Minister Anwar El Feitori and Lt General Ralph J. Jodice for Nato. Also in the picture is Finance Minister Tonio Fenech. Photo: Jason Borg

Commercial and humanitarian flights can operate on specific routes to Benghazi in Libya without the need for Nato clearance after an agreement was reached with the Libyan civil aviation authorities.

A UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya is still in force but the agreement signed yesterday in Malta hands over the responsibility of certain air corridors to the Libyan authorities and opens the possibility for commercial flights to Libya to start.

The agreement between Nato and the Libyan civil aviation authorities covers flights from Benghazi to the rest of the world and the internal routes between Benghazi and the capital Tripoli and Misurata.

Lt Gen. Ralph Jodice, head of Nato’s air operation over Libya, said this was a first step in the gradual handover of Libyan airspace back to the Libyan authorities.

He said that although Nato’s mission was not yet over the end was “real close”.

“As long as civilians are under attack or the threat of attack we will continue our mission but we will not continue for any longer than is needed. It is game over for (Muammar) Gaddafi and his loyalist forces but there is still some more work to do,” Lt Gen. Jodice said.

A representative of the Libyan civil aviation authority expressed hope that the agreement would serve as a stepping stone for the immediate opening of direct routes between the rest of the world and Tripoli and Misurata.

The agreement with Nato was signed on the back of a conference that brought together the civil aviation authorities of Malta, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

Since the start of the Libyan conflict and the imposition of the no-fly zone, Maltese air traffic controllers have been coordinating flights in sections of the Libyan airspace on a mandate from the International Civil Aviation Organisation and its European equivalent Eurocontrol.

Malta will continue offering air traffic services to Libya until the country rebuilds its human and hardware capacity that was badly affected during the war. The work done by Maltese air traffic controllers throughout the Libyan conflict was praised by Lt Gen. Jodice, who presented the head of Malta Air Traffic Services, Brigadier Carmel Vassallo, with a thank-you plaque.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Finance Minister Tonio Fenech and Libyan Provisional Government Transport Minister Anwar El Feitori. Earlier, Dr Feitori held talks behind closed doors with Transport Minister Austin Gatt during which ways how Malta can help Libya rebuild its harbours and airports were discussed.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of Transport Malta who recently toured the badly-damaged harbour in Misurata.

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