History of the U.S. and Libya

The first treaty between the United States and Tripoli was signed on June 10, 1805. Thirty years later, the Ottoman Empire reasserted itself over its Libyan provinces, and Libya was taken under Italian control until 1947. The United States recognized the United Kingdom of Libya on December 24, 1951 in a congratulatory message sent by President Harry Truman to King Idris I for declaring independence. At that time, the American Consulate General was elevated to a Legation.

The Legation in Libya was raised to Embassy status on September 25, 1954. Although relations were not formally severed, the U.S. Embassy at Tripoli closed for the first time on May 2, 1980, and the Libyan People’s Bureau in Washington closed on May 6, 1981, both until 2004. The United States established an Interests Section at the Belgian Embassy in Tripoli on February 8, 2004, transitioning into a U.S. Liaison Office on June 28. Libyan diplomats reestablished a presence in Washington on July 8, 2004, where they opened the Libyan Interests Section as part of the United Arab Emirates Embassy.

The U.S. and Libya resumed full diplomatic relations in 2006, when the Liaison Office became an Embassy. These relations deteriorated sharply when Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi attempted to suppress an uprising against his regime in 2011, leading to the United States suspending Embassy operations in Tripoli on February 25. The United States ordered the Libyan Government to suspend its Embassy operations in Washington on March 16.

The United States maintained a diplomatic presence in Benghazi from April 2011 to September 2012, appointing a Special Representative to the Transitional National Council (TNC) in March of the same year. The U.S. Government officially recognized the TNC as the legitimate government of Libya on July 15, 2011. The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli resumed operations on September 22, 2011.

The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other American colleagues were killed on September 11, 2012 during an attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi. Following the death of Ambassador Stevens, the American Embassy in Tripoli was headed by Charge Greg Hicks.

On July 26, 2014, Embassy operations in Libya were suspended due to ongoing violence between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy in Tripoli. The mission was relocated to Valleta, Malta. Today, the U.S. Embassy resides in Tunis, Tunisia and is committed to continuing this relationship despite limited capacity and resources.