Egypt walks out out of Arab League meeting in protest against Libyan leadership

Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry leads Egyptian delegation out of foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo

A general view of the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. AFP
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Egypt on Tuesday walked out of a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers to protest against the chairmanship of the gathering by Libyan Foreign Minister Najla El Mangoush, officials said.

It was the first time Libya has led the meeting in nine years.

The minister is a member of the Tripoli-based government, which is considered by the rival administration in eastern Libya as well as Egypt to have lost its mandate.

“The walkout by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his accompanying delegation was an expression of reservation over the chairmanship of the session by Najla El Mangoush, the foreign minister of a government whose mandate has expired,” said a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms El Manqoush later sought to play down the walkout, telling a news conference that she respected but did not necessarily agree with the Egyptian minister's decision to leave.

Asked why she did not decline to take over the meeting to avoid a crisis, she said: "What happened was not a crisis, but rather a difference of views." She also said that her leadership of Libya's delegation was in accordance international treaties and the Arab league charter, along with UN-sponsored political agreements in Libya.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit, addressing the same news conference, said the League's secretariat has been commissioned to put together a legal paper on Libya's representation in the 22-member organisation to head off future differences over the issue.

The rivalry between Libya's two administrations boiled over in recent months when violence erupted between militias in the capital of Tripoli amid a political stalemate that grew out of the country’s failure to hold elections as scheduled last December.

Libya’s continuing deadlock stemmed in part from the refusal by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who led the transitional government based in Tripoli, to step down.

In response, the country’s eastern-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, who has for months sought to install his government in Tripoli.

Egypt, which shares a porous desert border with Libya, has for years supported the administration in eastern Libya and its military chief, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

It has in the meantime hosted numerous rounds of talks between the two sides in hopes that they would iron out their differences and allow elections to proceed.

Egypt's interest in seeing stability and security prevail in Libya is in large part rooted in its concerns over the presence in the energy-rich North African nation of militant groups who have, in the past, staged cross-border attacks on Egyptian security forces and Christian pilgrims travelling on remote desert roads.

The Libyan crisis began in 2011 with a Nato-backed Arab uprising against the rule of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was toppled and killed that year. The uprising soon descended into civil war with heavily armed rival militias fighting it out across much of the vast country for control of terrain as well as oil installations.

Updated: September 06, 2022, 6:11 PM