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Most FMs boycott Arab League meeting in Tripoli amid dispute over Libyan government

Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia among members absent from forum, challenging legitimacy of government whose rival they back

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush speaks at the opening session of the meeting of Arab foreign ministers, in the capital Tripoli, on January 22, 2023. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)
Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush speaks at the opening session of the meeting of Arab foreign ministers, in the capital Tripoli, on January 22, 2023. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP)

CAIRO (AP) — A handful of Arab chief diplomats met Sunday in the Libyan capital in a gathering boycotted by powerful foreign ministers who argued that the mandate of the Tripoli-based government has ended.

Five of the 22 member states of the Arab League sent their foreign ministers to the periodic, consultative meeting. They included the chief diplomats of neighboring Algeria and Tunisia, local media reported. Others sent their envoys to the meeting in Tripoli.

Among those boycotting the gathering was Egypt, which questioned the legitimacy of Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah’s government after Libya’s east-based parliament appointed a rival premier last year. The foreign ministers of Gulf monarchies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also did not attend.

Najla Mangoush, the foreign minister of Libya’s Tripoli-based administration, said in televised comments they “insist on full exercise of Libya’s rights” in the Arab League, in reference to the rotating leadership of the pan-Arab organization.

In September, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry withdrew from an Arab League session chaired by Mangoush, protesting her representing Libya at the pan-Arab summit.

Ahead of Sunday’s meeting, authorities in the Libyan capital granted a day off for civil servants and closed off major roads around the Mitiga airport, the only functional airport in the capital, and a luxury hotel where the gathering took place.

Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah attends the graduation ceremony of a batch of Libyan army cadets, in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, February 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Yousef Murad)

Libya’s current political stalemate grew out of the failure to hold elections in December 2021 and Dbeibah’s refusal to step down. In response, the country’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, who has for months sought to install his government in Tripoli.

The protracted standoff between the two governments led to bouts of clashes in Tripoli last year, risking the return of civil war to the oil-rich nation after months of relative calm.

Last month, the UN’s special envoy for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, warned that signs of partition are already evident, and the political crisis in the country “impacts people’s wellbeing, compromises their security, and threatens their very existence.”

The North African nation has plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011. Libya has been virtually ruled by a set of rival militias and armed groups in the east and west.

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