By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 23 May:
On Sunday (20 May), the Italian Consulate in Benghazi re-opened after having been closed since 17 February . . .[restrict]2006 as a result of the riots that occurred in front of it in which more than 15 people died. The Consulate building was also attacked and damaged during the riots. It became unfit for use.
It was on the anniversary of that historic ‘day of anger’ that the deaths of those demonstrators on 17 February 2006, that the Libyan Revolution was born eleven years later in Benghazi, in 2011.
In a sign of improved relations between Italy and Benghazi, residents and families of the victims of those riots had returned an Italian flag replacing the flag that was removed during the riots, to the Italian Consulate General during his visit to the NTC in March 2011.
Renovation commenced on the Consulate building in January 2012 with the aim of making a section specific for visa applications, a pressing demand by residents of Benghazi and the Eastern region of Libya. This is in the hope of the development of direct economic, trade and cultural relations between Eastern Libya and Italy, relations that have long historical links.
The re-opening of the Italian Consulate General also coincided with the first elections for the Benghazi Local Council which ended on 19 May in a general atmosphere of celebration and enthusiasm by the city for the start of the new democratic process in Libya.
Residents of the region have already responded with great interest to the re-opening of the Consulate, by making advance bookings for visa applications, which are expected to surpass the 2006 application levels.
The choice of the date of 20 May to recommence the visa operations of the Consulate will also enable Alitalia to fly passengers on its first direct flight from Benghazi to Rome on 3 June, a route that had been suspended for several years. [/restrict]