Libya foreign minister flees country after meeting Israeli counterpart

The Israeli foreign ministry described the meeting as historic, though Libya’s government denies that it was planned

Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush fled the country on Sunday and headed to Turkey following a backlash after she met her Israeli counterpart in Italy last week.

The meeting between Mangoush and Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was a first for the two countries.

Libya and Israel have no official ties and the meeting between the two ministers sparked protests in Tripoli and other cities in the country. Protesters were seen waving Palestinian flags and blocking roads.

The news about their meeting was first announced by Cohen, who said: “I spoke with the [Libyan] foreign minister about the great potential for the two countries from their relations.”

The Israeli side portrayed the meeting as a first step towards normalisation.

Since 2020, Israel has normalised ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan in a series of deals brokered by the United States. Saudi Arabia is also reported to be considering normalising ties with Israel.

Following Cohen’s announcement and the backlash, the head of Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU), Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, suspended Mangoush and referred her to an investigation.

Libya’s foreign ministry said Mangoush had rejected a meeting with representatives of Israel and that what had occurred was “an unprepared, casual encounter”.

The Libyan ministry’s statement said the interaction did not include “any discussions, agreements or consultations”, and added the ministry “renews its complete and absolute rejection of normalisation” with Israel.

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