Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias snubbed his Libyan counterpart Thursday, abandoning a planned visit to Tripoli to avoid being welcomed by the top diplomat of a government allied with arch-rival Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported.
Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush was left waiting on the tarmac at Tripoli airport when Dendias refused to disembark from his plane and instead flew on to Benghazi, where a rival administration holds sway.
Dendias’s visit to the divided North African nation comes after Libya’s Tripoli-based government signed a deal with Ankara over exploration for Mediterranean oil and gas that is bitterly contested by Athens.
Mangoush had been waiting on the tarmac to welcome Dendias “in keeping with diplomatic norms,” a statement from her ministry said.
But “in a surprising and insulting move, the Greek minister refused to disembark from his plane and left without any clarifications,” it added.
Mangoush’s ministry said it would take “appropriate diplomatic measures” in response.
Shortly afterwards, it called its acting ambassador back from Athens for discussions and summoned his Greek counterpart in Tripoli, government spokesman Mohamad Hamouda told Al-Ahrar, a satellite news channel.
Built on a 2019 border deal between Tripoli and Ankara, the energy exploration agreement signed last month angered Greece, Egypt and Cyprus which argue that neither side has a right to drill in those areas.
The rival administration which holds sway in Benghazi also condemned the deal, insisting the Tripoli-based government of Abdulhamid Dbeibah no longer has a mandate to rule or sign international agreements.
Athens blamed the incident on Tripoli, where Dendias had been scheduled to meet the head of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohamed el-Manfi, without meeting members of the executive, according to the Greek foreign ministry.
But their meeting was “cancelled as the Libyan foreign ministry reneged on an agreement” that he would not meet Mangoush, according to a statement by the Greek foreign ministry.
The Libyan ministry said Dendias had been invited in response to a request from Athens, “despite (him) taking offensive positions… and making unbalanced statements about Libya’s sovereignty and its right to establish relations that meet the hopes of its people.”
After the signing of the hydrocarbons deal in October, Dendias had said it “threatens stability and security” in the region, speaking from Cairo, which also opposes Dbeibah.
His office said Thursday the remainder of his trip, in the eastern city of Benghazi, would continue as planned.
Dendias later tweeted a picture of himself being received at Benghazi airport, saying his visit there would “be carried out normally.”
Libya has been plagued by violence since the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi’s regime in 2011.
Dbeibah was appointed as part of a United Nations-guided peace process following the last major battle in Libya in 2020, but the eastern-based parliament and military strongman Khalifa Haftar say his mandate has expired, further complicating the country’s foreign relations.