Only five of the Arab League‘s 22 members sent their senior diplomats to a ministerial gathering that the Libyan interim government hosted on Sunday as the organization’s secretary general abstained.
The boycott highlights Arab differences towards the Tripoli-based government, whose legitimacy is disputed by a parallel administration in the east of the country, which has been devastated by conflict.
The gathering, a warm-up for a conference of foreign ministers in Cairo, featured none of the regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or the United Arab Emirates.
While Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the head of the Arab League, was also absent, four countries sent lower-ranking ministers or ambassadors.
Najla Al-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 organization, is “determined to play its role in the Arab League (and) rejects any attempt to politicize the League’s founding documents,” she said.
Following the toppling of tyrant Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed insurrection in 2011, Libya descended into a decade of warfare.
The ensuing power grab resulted in the formation of numerous domestic militias and spurred the involvement of Arab, Turkish, Russian, and Western state forces.
Since March of last year, a government in eastern Libya supported by military chief Khalifa Haftar, who has had close ties to Russia and Egypt, has contested Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah’s administration, claiming it has exceeded its authority.
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 recognized.”
In a tweet, Fathi Bashagha also urged Libya’s western neighbors Algeria and Tunisia, who did send foreign ministers to the meeting, to “review their policies toward Libya and not to be fooled by a government whose mandate has ended.”
Following the nation’s final major conflict in 2020, a peace process sponsored by the UN resulted in the unity government with its capital in Tripoli.