Arab states snub regional meeting in divided Libya

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were not present at a gathering that highlighted divisions over the government in Tripoli

Libyan Foreign Affairs Minister Najla Mangoush at the end of the Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Tripoli on Sunday. AFP
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Major Arab states have snubbed a ministerial meeting hosted by Libya's interim government, with just five of the Arab League's 22 members sending their top diplomats and even the bloc's secretary general staying away.

The snub underlines Arab divisions over the Tripoli-based government, whose legitimacy is contested by a rival administration in the war-scarred country's east.

Regional heavyweights Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were not represented at all at Sunday's gathering — a preparatory session before a foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo.

Four members sent lower-ranking ministers or ambassadors. Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit was absent.

Najla Mangoush, foreign minister in the Tripoli-based administration, condemned what she called "attempts by certain sides to crush Libyans' desire to transform Arab solidarity into a reality".

Libya, which holds the rotating presidency of the organisation, is "determined to play its role in the Arab League (and) rejects any attempt to politicise the League's founding documents," she said.

Libya fell into a decade of violence following the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in a Nato-backed rebellion.

The resulting power grab gave rise to many home-grown militias and prompted interventions by Arab powers as well as Turkey, Russia and western states.

Since March last year, an administration in Libya's east backed by military leader Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who has been close to Russia and Egypt, has challenged the government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, arguing that it has outlived its mandate.

The head of the rival government thanked Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for "declining to take part in the theatrics through which the expired government tried to portray itself as being internationally recognised".

In a tweet, Fathi Bashagha also urged Libya's neighbours Algeria and Tunisia, who did send foreign ministers to the meeting, to "review their policies towards Libya and not to be fooled by a government whose mandate has ended".

The Tripoli-based unity government was the product of a UN-mediated peace process following the country's last major conflict in 2020.

Updated: January 24, 2023, 3:32 AM