Greek FM Nikos Dendias did not get off his plane, refusing to meet his colleague in Tripoli, who was waiting for him.
Greece’s foreign minister has canceled his first visit to Libya, refusing to get off his plane after it arrived in the capital Tripoli, Greek officials said. Instead, he flew to the city of Benghazi, in the east of the country.
Greece’s foreign ministry said Thursday’s incident – unrelated to Libya’s western government, Tripoli – was a result of violations of the rules and agreements reached during the trip.
Tensions are rising in the Mediterranean following a controversial maritime and gas deal between Turkey and the Tripoli administration.
Libya, which has been in turmoil since the 2011 overthrow of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has two competing regimes, in the east and west of the country.
Greece’s Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, was on a two-part visit that was to include a meeting with the president of the western Libyan government, Tripoli, Mohammad Younes Menfi. This was to be followed by a meeting in Benghazi with the eastern administration.
A brief statement from the Greek Ministry indicated that Dendias did not want to meet his Tripoli counterpart, Najla Mangoush, but nevertheless came to the airport to greet her.
“Ms Mangoush tried to force me by being with her at the airport to meet her. As a result I interrupted the trip to Tripoli and we boarded the plane to Benghazi, where the plan was followed,” said the Greek minister in the eastern city of Benghazi.
There, he donated three small boxes of coronavirus vaccine and a 550,000-euro ($568,000) donation for the reconstruction of the port of Benghazi to the World Food Program.
The spokesman for the government of Tripoli, Mr. Mohamed Hamuda, said that Manoush’s presence at the airport was part of diplomatic meetings.
The first Tripoli-Ankara maritime and gas deal signed last month has been rejected by Greece and Egypt, which accuse Turkey of using the deal to try to expand its influence in the Mediterranean. The agreement also includes joint exploration of hydrocarbon reserves in Libyan offshore waters.
During a visit to Cairo last month, Dendias said the deal was breaking Greece’s borders. His Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, said that the government of western Libya led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah does not have the power to make such an agreement, considering that his position ended after Libya’s failure to hold international elections in December last year.
The Libyan parliament has elected Fathi Bashagha as prime minister.
Meanwhile, Cairo and Athens have strengthened ties in recent years, including signing new maritime border agreements with Cyprus.
Relations between Athens and Ankara are also at a low ebb, with rights to offshore gas and oil exploration a major part of the dispute. Turkey remains a prominent supporter of Dbeibah.
In 2019, Turkey signed another controversial maritime border agreement with Tripoli, giving them access to their rival’s economic hubs in the eastern Mediterranean. The agreement ignored the existence of several Greek islands, including Crete, which lies between Turkey and Libya. This re-ignited existing disputes between Turkey and Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over the right to drill for oil and gas.