Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush in Rome last week to discuss the possibility of normalizing ties, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem revealed on Sunday.
During the first-ever meeting between representatives of the two countries, Cohen offered humanitarian help to the conflict-wrecked North African nation and discussed efforts to preserve the heritage of Libyan Jewry.
Israeli officials established contact with Libya’s unity government several months ago.
“The historic meeting with the Libyan foreign minister, Najla Mangoush, is the first step in the relationship between Israel and Libya,” Cohen said in a statement, explaining that “given Libya’s size and strategic location, relations are of great importance and have huge potential for the State of Israel.
“I thank the Italian foreign minister, Antonio Tajani, for hosting the historic meeting in Rome,” added Cohen. “We are working with a series of countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia with the aim of expanding the circle of peace and the normalization of Israel.”
Torn by a bloody civil war since a NATO-supported rebellion removed dictator Muammar Gaddafi from power in 2011, Libya has been divided between rival governments for more than a decade.
Mangoush represents the U.N.-backed unity government in Tripoli, which also enjoys support from large swaths of the international community.