Israel’s FM unreciprocated optimism after meeting with Libyan peer
Speculations about an upcoming normalization of ties between war-torn and de facto divided Libya and Israel came to the fore following news of a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries, an incident that was described as historic in Israel but led to the sanctioning of Libya’s foreign minister by her government.
The first ever high-level meeting between Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen and his Libyan counterpart, Najla Mangoush, took place last week in Italy, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced on August 27.
The two parties discussed cooperation prospects in fields including the protection of Jewish heritage sites in Libya in addition to means to offer Israeli humanitarian aid as well as help with agriculture and water management, the ministry said.
“The size and strategic location of Libya provides enormous importance and enormous potential for the State of Israel to establish ties with it,” Cohen said, describing his meeting with Mangoush as “historic”.
“I spoke with the foreign minister about the great potential for our countries with such ties, as well as the importance of preserving the heritage of Libyan Jewry, including renovating synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in the country,” he said.
However, the enthusiasm and optimistic tone of the Israeli foreign ministry was not shared by Mangoush, who represents the UN-recognized government based in Tripoli.
Mangoush had rejected a meeting with representatives of Israel and described the meeting with Cohen as “an unprepared, casual encounter during a meeting at Italy’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.”
Libya’s prime minister suspended Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush on Sunday and referred her for investigation.
Israel has normalized ties with influential Arab countries over the last three years and seeks to extend Abraham peace accords to other states including Saudi Arabia and reportedly Tunisia and Mauritania.