Libya’s FM Suspended after Meeting Israeli Peer in Italy

Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush has been suspended by her country’s PM for meeting her Israeli peer Eli Cohen in Rome last week though the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

Ms. Mangoush fled to Turkey following the Israeli announcement of the meeting which sparked anger in Libya. She will also be subject to an investigation before a panel.

Israel’s statement on the meeting said the ministers had discussed possible cooperation but Libya’s Foreign Ministry said it was “an unprepared, casual encounter” during a meeting at Italy’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The Libyan ministry’s statement said the interaction did not include “any discussions, agreements or consultations.” The meeting was facilitated by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Israel’s foreign ministry said, stressing they had discussed possible cooperation and Israeli aid in humanitarian issues, agriculture, and water management.

Libya has been in turmoil for years, with the country split between the interim internationally recognized government in Tripoli and a rival one in the east.

The Government of National Unity was installed in early 2021 through a U.N.-backed peace process but its legitimacy has been challenged since early 2022 by the eastern-based parliament after a failed attempt to hold an election.

Libya’s Presidential Council, which functions as head of state, issued a statement on Sunday asking GNU Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah for clarification on what had taken place in Italy.

The Council said the meeting between the two foreign ministers “does not reflect the foreign policy of the Libyan state, does not represent the Libyan national constants and is a violation of Libyan laws.”

For its part, the High State Council, which holds an advisory role in Libyan politics, voiced its “surprise” over the meeting and said those responsible “should be held accountable.”