The leader of the Libyan government said on Sunday that he had fired his foreign minister after his Israeli counterpart was close to holding talks in Rome last week.
Najla al-Mangoush was “temporarily” suspended, and an “administrative investigation” will be conducted by a committee led by the Minister of Justice, said Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah on Sunday night, who posted an official statement on Facebook.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Libya described it as “an opportunity and an informal meeting,” but the news about the meeting led to protests in the streets of several cities in Libya.
The political dispute erupted on Sunday after Israel’s foreign ministry said the foreign ministers of the two countries had met last week.
The statement said that Israel’s foreign minister Eli Cohen and his Libyan counterpart Mangoush, discussed in a meeting in Rome hosted by Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani.
The Israeli press release described the first diplomatic initiative of its kind between two countries.
“I spoke with the foreign minister about the great potential of the relationship between the two countries,” Cohen said in a statement released by the Israeli foreign ministry.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Libya said on Sunday that Mangoush “refused to meet with any party” representing Israel.
“What happened in Rome was an opportunity and an unofficial meeting, during the meeting with his Italian counterpart, which did not include any discussion, agreement or consultation,” said the statement of the ministry.
The minister reiterated “clearly and unambiguously Libya’s position on the Palestinian issue”, the statement said.
Libya’s foreign ministry accused Israel of trying to “make this event look like” a “meeting or talks.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry statement quoted Cohen as saying that the two sides discussed “the importance of preserving the heritage of Libyan Jews, which is part of the restoration of the country’s Jewish temples and cemeteries.”
“The size of Libya and its important location is a great opportunity for the State of Israel,” he said.
There has been no official confirmation of the meeting from Rome.