The Israeli and Libyan foreign ministers met in Italy last week despite not having formal relations, Israel said on Sunday, saying they discussed possible cooperation.
Since 2020 Israel has moved to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan through the so-called ‘Abraham accords’ brokered by the United States.
“I spoke with the foreign minister about the great potential for the two countries from their relations,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Libya’s Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Cohen’s meeting with Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush.
Libya does not recognize Israel and supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Any Israeli effort to strengthen ties with Libya could be complicated by Libya’s conflict and its bitter internal divisions over control of government and the legitimacy of any moves made by the Tripoli administration.
Libya’s GNU was installed in early 2021 through a U.N.-backed peace process but its legitimacy has been challenged since early 2022 by the eastern-based parliament after a failed attempt to hold an election.
Previous foreign policy moves by the GNU, including agreements it has reached with Turkey, have been rejected by the parliament and subjected to legal challenges.
The meeting was facilitated by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, Israel’s foreign ministry said, adding they had discussed possible cooperation and Israeli aid in humanitarian issues, agriculture and water management.
Cohen said he had spoken to Mangoush about the importance of preserving Jewish heritage in Libya.