1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Protests in Libya after foreign minister's Israel meeting

August 28, 2023

Protests broke out after it was revealed that the minister had met with her Israeli counterpart, possibly breaking Libyan law. The minister is now facing an investigation.

People burn a shirt showing Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and his Libyan counterpart Najla Mangoush in Tripoli, Libya
Protesters in Tripoli mocked up and burned t-shirts showing Najla Mangoush and Eli Cohen on an Israeli flagImage: Yousef Murad/AP Photo/picture alliance

Libya's Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said late on Sunday that he had suspended Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush and referred her to an investigation.

The move came hours after Israel said Mangoush had held a meeting with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen last week in Rome.

Libya has no diplomatic relations with Israel, like several other Arab countries. Under a 1957 Libyan law, dealing with Israel can be punishable by up to nine years in prison. 

What was the reaction in Libya?

The Israeli announcement prompted small protests in Libya around the capital Tripoli.

A group of people burn tires and block roads to protest Libya's Foreign Minister's meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Tajura town of Tripoli, Libya on August 27, 2023.
Isolated protests broke out in Libya overnight following the news, with local media reporting more early on MondayImage: Hazem Turkia/AA/picture alliance

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah's Government of National Unity announced in a Facebook statement the decision to "temporarily suspend" Mangoush, handing over the foreign ministry portfolio to the youth minister.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page that Mangoush had rejected formal meetings with Israeli representatives, in line with the stance of the Government of National Unity.

The Libyan foreign ministry described it as a "chance and unofficial encounter. What happened in Rome was an unofficial meeting that was not pre-planned," the ministry said. It also said that the meeting, which took place during talks with the Italian foreign minister, did not involve any agreements.

However, Reuters news agency on Monday cited an Israeli official as saying that Foreign Minster Cohen's meeting with Mangoush had been agreed in advance "at the highest levels" in Libya. 

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush speaks during a joint press conference with her Kuwaiti counterpart in Kuwait City October 3, 2021.
Najla Mangoush was suspended and the Tripoli-based government also said she'd face an investigationImage: YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AFP

What had Israel said about the meeting? 

Israel's statement announcing the meeting on Sunday suggested the two parties had discussed possible cooperation, including Israeli aid in humanitarian issues, agriculture and water management.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also said he stressed to his Libyan counterpart Najla al-Mangoush the importance of preserving Jewish heritage in her country. The talks were facilitated by the Italian foreign minister.

In recent years, Israel has normalized its diplomatic ties with several Arab countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

msh, rmt/ab (AFP, Reuters)