The prime minister of Libya has announced the suspension of his foreign minister, Najla Mangoush on Sunday, after Israel announced that its Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen had met her last week despite the countries not having formal relations.
Isreali’s Foreign minister, Eli Cohen said the meeting was a historic first step in establishing relations as Israel is working to build closer ties with Arab and Muslim-majority countries which do not officially recognise it.
“I spoke with the foreign minister about the great potential for the two countries from their relations,” Colen said in a statement.
He also said they talked about Israeli aid in humanitarian issues, agriculture, water management and the importance of preserving Jewish heritage in Libya, including renovating synagogues and cemeteries.
However, Libya’s presidential council, which represents its three provinces, said it was illegal to normalise relations with Israel.
The Speaker’s Office in parliament has accused Ms Mangoush of grand treason, and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has referred her for investigation.
The announcement by Israel that talks had taken place was surprising given that it was not known to be courting Libya, a strong adversary and champion of the Palestinian struggle, especially under former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
On Monday, an Israeli official said that the meeting was agreed in advance “at the highest levels” in Libya and lasted more than an hour.
However, Libya’s foreign ministry said Ms Mangoush had rejected a meeting with representatives from Israel, and what had taken place was “an unprepared, casual encounter during a meeting at Italy’s foreign affairs ministry”.
A statement also said the interaction did not include “any discussions, agreements or consultations” and the ministry “renewed its complete and absolute rejection of normalisation” with Israel.
Protests broke out in the capital Tripoli and some other cities following news of the meeting.
Roads were blocked, tyres burnt and demonstrators waved the Palestinian flag, though the protests appear to have been relatively small.