Libya’s Foreign Minister, Najla Al-Mangoush, has been suspended by the Libyan Prime Minister and referred for investigation following a statement from Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen that stated the two held a meeting in Rome last week at the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry. The announcement was met with protests in Libya as the FM headquarters in Tripoli was stormed. Outside of the HQ, protestors burned Israeli flags and chanted anti-Israel slogans. According to Cohen, the meeting was facilitated and hosted by Italian FM Antonio Tajani.
Israel and Libya do not hold diplomatic relations with each other, and Libya has yet to even recognize Israel. Because of this, this meeting is the first such between top officials of the two sides.
However, the two sides accounts differ on the matter, with the Libyan Foreign Ministry referring to the meeting as “an unprepared, casual encounter during a meeting at Italy’s Foreign Affairs Ministry”.
The Israeli Account
Israeli FM Eli Cohen referred to the meeting as a “historic breakthrough”, adding “the foreign ministers of Israel and Libya engaged in a groundbreaking meeting aimed at exploring potential cooperation and forging relations between the two countries”.
In his discussions with Al-Mangoush he claims to have discussed potential means of preservation for Jewish culture in Libya, as well as the restoration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.
Additionally, he claimed discussions for Israeli humanitarian and agricultural aid toward Libya were held.
The Libyan Account
However, Libya’s FM’s account is completely different from the Israeli account. As mentioned, she described the encounter more as an accidental run in with the Israeli envoy rather than a sit-down meeting. In her statement she said there were not “any discussions, agreements or consultations” with FM Cohen, as well as stating Libya “renews its complete and absolute rejection of normalisation” with Israel.
The Foreign Ministers Fate
Pending investigation by the Libyan government, the Libyan Prime Minister has suspended the Foreign Minister. Whether this suspension will be permanent, or if she will be forced to resign, remains to be seen.