JERUSALEM/TRIPOLI (Reuters) -The Libyan and Israeli foreign ministers spoke for more than two hours last week in a meeting approved "at the highest levels" in Libya, an Israeli official said on Monday, contradicting Libyan accounts of an encounter which prompted protests across Libya.
Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah suspended Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush late on Sunday after Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said he had met her in Italy last week despite the countries not having formal relations.
Libya does not recognise Israel and supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The Foreign Ministry in Tripoli said Mangoush had met Cohen only in an informal, unplanned encounter during a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Antonio Tajani and that she had previously rejected a formal meeting with Cohen.
The Israeli official disputed that account. "The meeting was coordinated at the highest levels in Libya and lasted almost two hours. The Libya prime minister sees Israel as a possible bridge to the West and the U.S. administration," the official said.
Protesters demonstrated in front of Libya's Foreign Ministry late on Sunday, causing some damage outside the building, where a large security presence was visible early on Monday. Protests took place in other parts of Tripoli, as well as other cities.
Since 2020 Israel has moved to normalise ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan through the so-called "Abraham accords" brokered by the United States.
(Writing by Dan Williams and Reuters Libya newsroomEditing by James Mackenzie and Peter Graff)