The Address | Benghazi – Libya
BEIRUT – Libya will not participate in the Arab Economic and Social Development summit in Beirut next week, foreign minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) Mohammad Siala reportedly said in an interview with a Libyan TV channel Sunday night.
Amal Movement leader Speaker Nabih Berri has been calling for the summit to be postponed over Libya’s participation, and Amal supporters Sunday tore down a Libyan flag near Beirut’s Biel Center where the summit is slated to be held, replacing it with their own.
According to Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency, Siala told Libya Al Ahrar TV, “The official delegation is not participating due to Lebanese authorities in Beirut’s airport preventing Libyan businessmen from entering and to protest the offending of the Libyan flag.”
A source at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport told The Daily Star Monday morning that Libyan businessmen had not attempted to enter the country as part of the summit, set for Jan. 19-20. A General Security source said he had no information regarding the Libyan foreign minister’s claim.
Local media had reported that Amal supporters were also threatening to cut off Beirut’s Airport Road to prevent the Libyan delegation from reaching the summit venue if they were to arrive in the country.
And in the Libyan capital Monday, a group of people gathered at the entrance of the Lebanese Embassy, removed the “Embassy of Lebanon” plaque and tied up a Libyan flag, Lebanese Ambassador to Libya Mohammad Sukaina told Al Jadeed channel in a phone call broadcast live.
The ambassador nevertheless said Libyan politicians “understand Lebanon’s rejection to having a Libyan delegation at the summit,” and said he doubted there would be a further escalation.
Earlier Monday, Rafik Shalala, chief spokesman of the summit, told Voice of Lebanon (100.3) that the summit’s committee has not yet confirmed the Libyan delegation’s decision not to attend, “as it was taken late last night.”
“The preparations for the summit have been completed and the summit’s committee will announce in a news conference in the afternoon the logistic and security measures that will be taken on Airport Road and the area hosting the committee and the delegations,” Shalala said.
Berri and his Amal Movement are opposed to Lebanon having ties with Libya over the 1978 disappearance of Amal founder Imam Musa Sadr and his companions during an official visit to the country when it was ruled by Moammar Gadhafi.