Libya s Tripoli-based administration Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush attends a meeting with other Arab Foreign Ministers in the capital of Tripoli, Sunday Jan. 22, 2023. AP
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 only envoys to the meeting in Tripoli.
Regional heavyweights Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were not represented at all at the gathering, a preparatory session ahead of a foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo, which questioned the legitimacy of Prime Minister Abdel-Hamid Dbeibah’s government after Libya’s east-based parliament appointed a rival premier last year.
Four members sent lower-ranking ministers or ambassadors, while Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit was also absent.
Neither the Egyptian foreign ministry nor the Arab League were available for immediate comment on Sunday.
Najla Mangoush, the foreign minister of Libya’s Tripoli-based administration, said in televised comments that they “insist on full exercise of Libya’s rights” in the Arab League, in reference to the rotating leadership of the pan-Arab organization.
She condemned what she called "attempts by certain sides to crush Libyans' desire to transform Arab solidarity into a reality."
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.
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 stand-off 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.
The resulting power grab gave rise to myriad 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 Khalifa Haftar has challenged the government of Prime Minister Dbeibah, arguing it has outlived its mandate.
The unity government was the product of a United Nations-mediated peace process following the country's last major battle in 2020.
Yet, last month, the U.N.’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 Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Libya has been virtually ruled by a set of rival militias and armed groups in the east and west.
* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.