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Diplomatic debacle: Protests break out, Libyan FM flees to Turkey after meeting with Israeli counterpart

El Mangoush says her meeting with FM Eli Cohen was at the Libyan prime minister's request

Libyan protesters burn the Israeli flag in Al-Zawiya, Aug. 28, 2023 (Photo: Social Media)

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla El Mangoush fled to Turkey following her suspension from her post and the announcement of an investigation into her meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in Rome last week, according to press reports.

Libyan Prime Minister Abd al-Hamid al-Dbeibeh announced her dismissal a couple of hours after the meeting.

Cohen's announcement of last week's meeting led to protests and public outcry in the Libyan capital city of Tripoli.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh attempted to manage the situation by calling for the formation of an investigative committee.

The government of Libya also released a statement saying that it “categorically denies the exploitation by the Hebrew and international press and their attempt to confer upon the incident the character of meetings.”

The statement also said that the meeting was a “chance meeting," and not prearranged.

“What happened in Rome was a chance and unofficial encounter, during a meeting with her Italian counterpart, which did not involve any discussion, agreement or consultation.”

The Israeli government disputed that account, telling Reuters: "The meeting was coordinated at the highest levels in Libya and lasted almost two hours. The Libya prime minister sees Israel as a possible bridge to the West and the U.S. administration."

A Libyan government official reportedly told the Associated Press that the Libyan government has been holding discussions regarding admission to the Abraham Accords since January.

Earlier this morning, opposition head Yair Lapid criticized Cohen, saying his actions represented “a serious failure of judgment.”

“The global community is looking this morning at Israel’s irresponsible leak of the Libya foreign ministers meeting, and asking themselves: Is this a country with which we can conduct foreign relations? Is this a country one can trust?” Lapid posted to social media.

He accused Cohen of “risking life for a headline.”

“The incident with the Libyan foreign minister is amateurish, irresponsible and a serious failure of judgment. This is a morning of national disgrace and risking human life for a headline.”

The accusation was echoed by Israeli journalist and commentator, Barak Ravid.

"What we saw here at this event does not reflect the state of Israel's relations with Libya, but rather reflects Israel and the wisdom of its ministers," Ravid said.

However, according to a report in Lebanese news site Al Mayadeen, the Libyan Foreign Minister’s office released a statement earlier today, saying it had documents to prove that the Libyan prime minister had requested that El Mangoush meet with Cohen in Rome.

El Mangoush said she would not allow the prime minister of Libya to make her a scapegoat.

Al Mayadeen also reported that the Libyan government agreed to the meeting after promises from the Italian government to resume operation of the Rome-Tripoli line.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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