Libyan PM suspends Foreign Minister over “secret meeting with Israeli FM”

The Libyan Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, temporarily suspended on Monday Foreign Minister, Najla Al-Mangoush, pending investigation into a meeting she had held in Rome with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen.

The suspension followed a wave of angry protests across western Libya, especially Tripoli, Al-Zawiya and their suburbs, with Libyans calling on Al-Mangoush to be punished for opening ties with Israel.

How it all started

Israeli media and Foreign Ministry broke the news to the public on Sunday evening, sparking a backlash inside Libya.

Israeli i24 news said Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Libya’s Foreign Minister Najla Al-Mangoush convened a meeting in Rome, marking the first-ever encounter between two top diplomats from the two sides and despite Libya having no diplomatic relations with Israel.

i24 said “in a historic breakthrough, the foreign ministers of Israel and Libya engaged in a groundbreaking meeting aimed at exploring potential cooperation and forging relations between the two countries.”

It added that Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Libya’s Foreign Minister Al-Mangoush’s meeting was hosted by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani.

“I emphasized the importance of this unprecedented step, referring to it as the first step in the relationship between Israel and Libya. The size and strategic location of Libya give ties with it enormous importance and enormous potential for the State of Israel,” Cohen said in a press release cited by i24.

“We are working with a series of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia with the aim of expanding the circle of peace and normalization of Israel.” He added. 

i24 added that the Israeli FM acknowledged the strategic significance of Libya’s size and location, underscoring the immense potential for collaboration between the two nations. 

“Cohen’s discussions with Al-Mangoush included exploring possibilities for mutual benefits and preserving the heritage of Libyan Jewry, which encompasses the restoration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries within Libya. The conversation between the ministers also delved into the historical ties binding Israel and Libya and their shared interest in cooperation, including the potential areas of humanitarian initiatives, agriculture, and water management.” i24 said. 

FMA denies, Al-Mangoush Flies away

The Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a statement later Sunday night saying the meeting happened in an informal capacity while Al-Mangoush was holding bilateral talks with Italy’s Tajani in Rome.

The MFA said Al-Mangoush knew very well the constants of the Palestinian Cause and would not conduct any relations or meetings with any representatives of Israel, which the Israeli MFA’s statement countered by saying that the meeting was official and pre-arranged: lasting for an hour.

While the Prime Minister said he had replaced Al-Mangoush as she would be investigated, he announced that the Minister of Youth Mohammed Al-Zinni, stepped in her place as an acting FM.

Social media and news outlets reported flight monitoring websites as publishing a Libyan government flight taking off from Tripoli toward an unidentified destination: but some sources said the flight was for Al-Mangoush who landed later in Istanbul: news that is yet to be verified.

Local calls for sacking FM, incriminating her

Before the MFA and PM had made up their minds to speak to the public about the “clandestine meeting” and before any Government of National Unity’s officials had addressed the elephant in the room, the Presidential Council, High Council of State and House of Representatives – followed later by the Fatwa House – condemned the meeting with Israeli FM Cohen, calling for holding legally accountable those who arranged and held the Rome encounter, since Libyan laws incriminate by jail time those who hold talks with Israeli officials.


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