First Tripoli-Benghazi flight for a year follows Libya talks

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FILE PHOTO: Airplanes are seen at Tripoli airport after Libya's internationally recognised government regained control over the city, in Tripoli
FILE PHOTO: Airplanes are seen at Tripoli airport after Libya's internationally recognised government regained control over the city, in Tripoli

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A commercial passenger plane flew from the Libyan capital Tripoli across front lines to the eastern city of Benghazi for the first time in more than a year on Friday after talks between the country's warring parties in Geneva.

Flights between them had stopped in the summer of 2019 as shelling by Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) targeted Tripoli's Mitiga airport.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognised by the United Nations, drove the LNA back from the capital in June.

However, both Mitiga and Benghazi's Benina airport were by then mostly closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The global pandemic has spread widely across Libya, with more than 50,000 confirmed cases and an official death toll of 768.

Since the GNA advance in June frontlines have stabilised west of the central coastal city of Sirte and several diplomatic tracks, including the U.N.-brokered Geneva talks, have pushed for a lasting ceasefire.

On Tuesday the U.N.'s acting Libya envoy Stephanie Williams said military representatives of the two sides meeting in the Swiss city had agreed to reopen land and air connections across the country.

(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Philippa Fletcher)