The head of Libya’s government of national unity has suspended his foreign minister, Nayla al-Mangous, after it emerged she met with her Israeli counterpart last week, sparking protests in Tripoli and other Libyan cities.
“Mangous is temporarily suspended and an administrative investigation will be conducted against her by a committee chaired by the Minister of Justice,” a government document said.
A few hours earlier, the head of Israeli diplomacy, Eli Cohen, announced that he had discussed in Rome last week with his Libyan counterpart, during an “unprecedented” meeting.
“I spoke with the foreign minister about the great potential in the relations between the two countries,” Cohen said, according to a press release from his services.
“What happened in Rome was an accidental and unofficial meeting, during a meeting with its Italian counterpart that did not lead to any discussion, agreement or consultation,” was the reaction of the Libyan Foreign Ministry.
In the statement it made public, the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled Libya’s position on the Palestinian issue, adding that Mangous “refused to discuss with any party representing the Israeli entity” and “remained categorically firm in this position.”
Furthermore, the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the “exploitation by Jewish and international media” of this incident and that they tried to present it as a meeting or talks.
Libya, which remains mired in chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
After the Israeli diplomatic press release about the meeting was released, Libya’s presidential council, a body that has some executive powers, asked for “clarifications” from the government, according to Al Ahrar television.
For the presidential council, the meeting “does not reflect the foreign policy of the Libyan state, does not represent Libyan national constants and is considered a violation of Libyan legislation, which criminalizes normalization with the Zionist entity.”
Israel’s Foreign Minister Cohen said he discussed with Mangoush “the importance of preserving the heritage of Libyan Jewry, which includes the maintenance and restoration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in this country.”
It was, according to the Israeli minister, the “first step in the relations between Israel and Libya”, as he estimated that “Libya’s size and strategic position offer a huge opportunity for the State of Israel”.
According to the press release of his services, the meeting was organized under the patronage of Italian Foreign Minister Tajani.
Most of the Libyan Jewish population left Libya in the twenty years after World War II, mostly to Israel.
A few hundred Jews were still living in Libya when Colonel Gaddafi’s coup took place in 1969. They were then persecuted, their property confiscated and the synagogues destroyed.
Israel has normalized its relations in recent years with some Arab states, in the framework of the so-called Abraham Accords, under the auspices of the USA. However, the policy of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is criticized by Arab countries, especially after the wave of violence in the occupied West Bank and the continuation of settlements.
Spontaneous protests erupted in Tripoli and its suburbs on Sunday in a sign of rejection of normalization of relations with Israel, then spread to other cities, where youths blocked roads, set fire to car tires and demonstrated waving Palestinian flags.
The center of Tripoli was paralyzed by protesters, some of whom headed to the foreign ministry to demand Mangoush’s resignation.
Encouraged by passing motorists, some tried to breach the building’s entrance.
The article The Foreign Minister of Libya is unavailable after the meeting with her Israeli counterpart was published on Fourals.com.