The Libyan foreign minister was suspended and investigated for meeting with her Israeli counterpart: She fled to Turkey amid riots

Najla al-Mangoush
FILE PHOTO: Libyan Foreign Minister Najla el-Mangoush speaks as she and European Council President Charles Michel deliver a joint statement, in Tripoli, Libya, April 4, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed

The head of the Libyan government suspended Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush after announcing on Sunday that she had a meeting with her Israeli counterpart, sparking demonstrations in Tripoli and other Libyan cities.

Mangoush “was provisionally suspended” and subjected to an ” administrative investigation ” by a commission chaired by the Minister of Justice, the government of Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah announced Sunday night in a statement. Relations between the two countries are non-existent because Libya does not recognize the State of Israel and is a staunch ally of the Palestinian cause.

The former minister left the country this Sunday night, after protests broke out. According to security sources consulted by the daily Al Wasat, the former head of Libyan diplomacy has left the Mitiga International Airport (Tripoli) in the direction of Turkey in a private plane.

Hours earlier, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen announced that he had met his Libyan counterpart last week in Rome. “I spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the great potential that relations between the two countries represent,” Cohen declared, according to a statement from his office, which spoke of the possibility of normalizing ties.Eli Cohen, Foreign Minister of Israel, and the Libyan Minister, Najla Mangush (Grosby) Eli Cohen, Foreign Minister of Israel, and the Libyan Minister, Najla Mangush (Grosby)

The Libyan Foreign Ministry reacted with another statement downplaying it: “What happened in Rome was a fortuitous and unofficial meeting during a meeting with his Italian counterpart (Antonio Tajani), which did not include any discussion, agreement or consultation .”

The minister recalled “clearly and unambiguously Libya’s position regarding the Palestinian cause,” the ministry added, assuring that Mangoush “refused to meet with any representative of the Israeli entity” and that “he remains categorically firm on that position.”

Libya, plunged into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

After the Israeli announcement about the meeting, spontaneous protests were registered on Sunday in Tripoli and in various neighborhoods of the capital as a sign of rejection of normalization with Israel. Other cities were later added, where young people blocked roads, burned tires and waved the Palestinian flag.Protests in Tripoli (Reuters) Protests in Tripoli (Reuters)

A group of protesters set fire to the house of Libya’s prime minister of unity, Abdul Hamid Dbeidé, and broke into the headquarters of the Foreign Ministry.

According to local media, the protesters have written the words “Down with the government of traitors” on the walls of the Ministry headquarters, while the sounds of bullets have been heard inside the building.

The entrance to the UN headquarters in the Janzur neighborhood was also set on fire, all in the capital. Likewise, protests have been reported in other cities, beyond Tripoli, and roads have been blocked.

The protests forced the closure of the highway between the capital and the coastal city of Al Zawiya (northwest) after the burning of tires on the outskirts of Tripoli, while protesters in the neighboring city of Tayura demanded the immediate resignation of the Dbeiba government.

The High Council of State described the aforementioned meeting as “an offensive to the rich history of the struggle of the Libyan people in support of the just Palestinian cause” and urged all the competent authorities to take the necessary measures and be held accountable. “We strongly reject this act, condemn those responsible and ask that they be prevented from carrying out their work,” the institution requested.