The Greek foreign minister snubs his Libyan counterpart in the dispute over the Turkey deal

The Greek foreign minister snubs his Libyan counterpart in the dispute over the Turkey deal


Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias snubbed his Libyan counterpart on Thursday and canceled a planned visit to Tripoli to avoid being received by the top diplomat of a government allied with arch-rival Turkey.

Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush had to wait on the tarmac at Tripoli airport when Dendias refused to disembark his plane and instead flew on to the second largest city of Benghazi, where a rival government rules.

Athens blamed Tripoli for the incident, where, according to the Greek Foreign Ministry, Dendias was scheduled to meet with the head of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohamed el-Manfi, without meeting members of the executive branch.

Dendia’s visit to the politically divided North African nation comes after Libya’s Tripoli-based government signed a memorandum of understanding with Ankara on oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean, which Athens has bitterly contested.

Mangoush had been waiting on the tarmac to welcome Dendias “in accordance with diplomatic norms,” ??her ministry said in a statement.

But “in a surprising and insulting move, the Greek minister refused to get off his plane and left without further explanation,” he added.

Mangoush’s ministry said it would take “appropriate diplomatic action” in response.

Shortly thereafter, she recalled her ambassador from Athens and summoned his Greek counterpart in Tripoli, government spokesman Mohamad Hamouda told Al-Ahrar, a satellite news channel.

Building on a 2019 border deal between Tripoli and Ankara, the energy exploration deal signed last month angered Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, who argue neither side has the right to drill in those areas.

The rival government ruling Benghazi also condemned the deal, insisting that the Tripoli-based government of Abdulhamid Dbeibah no longer had a mandate to govern or sign international agreements.

The Libyan ministry said Dendias was invited in response to a request from Athens “although (he) took offensive positions … and made unbalanced statements about Libya’s sovereignty and its right to build relationships consistent with the aspirations of its people.”

After signing the hydrocarbon memorandum in October, Dendias said it “threatens stability and security” in the region.

“Ms Mangoush tried to force me to meet her by being at the airport. As a result, I interrupted the visit to Tripoli and we flew to Benghazi, where the schedule was kept,” said the Greek minister in the eastern city of Benghazi.

There, he delivered three small boxes of coronavirus vaccines and a €550,000 ($568,000) donation to help the World Food Program rebuild the port.

He also met members of the east-based parliament and tweeted that he thanked them for “their clear stance in condemning the 2019 Turkish-Libyan ‘memorandum’ and the one signed in October.”

Dendias later met military strongman Khalifa Haftar for talks which he said were “focused on the need for #Libya stabilization and promoting peace and stability across the region,” according to his Twitter account.

Libya has been plagued by violence since the ouster of Muamer Gaddafi’s regime in a NATO-backed insurgency in 2011.

Dbeibah was appointed as part of a UN-led peace process following the last major battle in Libya in 2020. Tripoli’s troops, backed by Turkey, were pushing Haftar’s forces — backed by Egypt and others — after their year-long attempt to recapture the city.

Parliament and Haftar say Dbeibah’s mandate has expired, further complicating the country’s external relations as well as its domestic landscape.

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