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TRIPOLI: Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Thursday snubbed his Libyan counterpart, forgoing a planned visit to Tripoli to avoid being greeted by the top diplomat of a government allied with Turkey.
Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Al-Mangoush was left waiting on the tarmac at Tripoli airport when Dendias refused to disembark her plane and flew to the second city of Benghazi, where a rival administration.
Dendias’ visit to the country comes after the Tripoli-based Libyan regime signed an agreement with Ankara on the exploration of Mediterranean oil and gas which is bitterly contested by Athens.
Mangoush was waiting on the tarmac to welcome Dendias “in accordance with diplomatic standards”, according to a press release from his ministry.
But “in a surprising and insulting gesture, the Greek minister refused to disembark from his plane and left without any clarification”, he added.
Mangoush’s ministry said it would take “appropriate diplomatic action” in response.
Shortly after, he recalled his ambassador to Athens and summoned his Greek counterpart to Tripoli, government spokesman Mohamad Hamouda told Al-Ahrar, a satellite news channel.
Building on a 2019 border accord between Tripoli and Ankara, the energy exploration deal signed last month has angered Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, who argue neither side has the right to drill in these areas.
The ruling rival administration in Benghazi has also condemned the deal, insisting that the Tripoli-based government of Abdulhamid Dbeibah no longer has a mandate to govern or sign international agreements.
Athens blamed the incident on Tripoli, where Dendias was due to meet the head of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohammed El-Manfi, without meeting members of the executive, according to the Greek Foreign Ministry.
But their meeting was “cancelled because the Libyan foreign ministry went back on an agreement” according to which it would not meet Mangoush, according to a press release from the Greek foreign ministry.
The Libyan ministry said Dendias was invited in response to a request from Athens, “despite (he) took offensive positions…and made unbalanced statements about Libya’s sovereignty and its right to establish relationships that meet the hopes of his people”.
After the hydrocarbons deal was signed in October, Dendias said it “threatens stability and security” in the region, speaking from Cairo, which also opposes Dbeibah.
His office said on Thursday that the rest of his trip, to the eastern city of Benghazi, would continue as planned.
Dendias then tweeted a photo of himself being received at Benghazi airport, saying his visit there would “go as normal”.
Libya has been plagued by violence since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.
Dbeibah was named as part of a UN-guided peace process following the last major battle in Libya in 2020, but the eastern-based parliament and military strongman Khalifa Haftar have said that his term had expired, further complicating the country’s foreign relations.