Why the Greek minister of Foreign Affairs didn’t want to get off the plane in Tripoli

Nikos Dendias, the Greek minister of Foreign Affairs decided to stay on the plane in Tripoli because he didn’t want to meet the minister of Foreign Affairs of the Libyan interim government who came to the airport.

Nikos Dendias
Nikos Dendias, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, at the airport in Benghazi on November 17, 2022 | Twitter, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias on November 17 decided to stay on the plane in Tripoli and refused to meet the minister of Foreign Affairs of the interim government of Libya.

In a press statement, the Greek ministry explained the trip was canceled because the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the interim government “failed to respect the agreement made that Mr. Dendias would not meet with the Libyan Foreign Minister.”

Mr. Dendias was scheduled to meet Mohamed al-Menfi, chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, equivalent to the head of State of Libya, in Tripoli. But at the airport was Naila Mangus the minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of National Unity, the transitional government of Libya, waiting to welcome him.

In his agenda, the minister was supposed to travel to Tripoli and then head to Benghazi in eastern Libya. The trip to Tripoli was not originally planned but Mohammed al-Menfi asked for a meeting, according to news media in Greece. However, the Greek minister only wanted to meet Mr al-Menfi and no one from the interim government.

Greece doesn’t want to meet government members because the country considers, along with the European Union, the United States and the United Nations security council, that the term for the interim government has expired and its only power now is to organize delayed democratic elections in Libya.

In a statement on Twitter, the ministry of Foreign Affairs of Libya considered the minister was waiting to receive Mr. Dendias “according to diplomatic norms. It added the ministry “deplores this behavior and will take appropriate diplomatic measures to preserve the prestige and sovereignty of the State of Libya.”

Mr al-Menfi had tried to suspend Ms. Mangus in 2021 because she didn’t coordinate with the presidential council regarding foreign policy. And according to the Greek news media Iefimerida, a television crew accompanied Ms. Mangus, which the Greek minister saw as an attempt to use the images at the expense of Greece.

Agreements between Libya and Turkey

Because Ms Mangus is also the one who signed in October a memorandum of understanding with Turkey that Greece rejects. Relations between Turkey and Greece are very tense.

This Libya-Turkey memorandum on hydrocarbons is based on a bilateral agreement from 2019 when Libya and Turkey defined sharing a maritime border and delimitation of maritime jurisdiction areas in the Mediterranean. But Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt are against this decision as it takes parts of their Exclusive Economic Zones. The European Union stated such an agreement “infringes upon the sovereign rights of third States, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third States.”

Mohammed al-Menfi used to be the Libyan ambassador to Greece when the Libyan-Turkish agreement on maritime boundaries was signed in 2019. He was then expelled from Greece in December 2019 as a consequence of the tensions between Greece and Libya.

The House of Representatives rejected the recent move considering the government has no such power to sign agreements with other countries. Relocated from Tripoli to eastern Libya because of a failed coup attempt in 2014, the House of Representatives passed a no-confidence motion against the government of Tripoli in 2021, which should lead to legislative elections.

Because of all this, Nikos Dendias then decided not to get off the plane in Tripoli and headed to Benghazi, in the east of the country as planned. There, he brought 30,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that Greece donated to Libya. His agenda also includes an event presenting Greece’s contribution to the UN World Food Programme for the rebuilding of the port of Benghazi, and a meeting with members of the Greek community in Libya.

He also met members of the House of representatives as well as Marshal Khalifa Haftar who plans to run in the presidential election. He is the commander of the Libyan National Army which is linked to the House of Representatives and the Government of National Stability, a government based in east Libya disputing the power of the Government of National Unity based in Tripoli.

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