“I found Meriam in good physical and mental condition, although she’s naturally been tested by this experience. I assured her that the Italian government is making the utmost effort to see her case brought to a positive conclusion, which I believe will be very soon now”.
This was Deputy Minister Pistelli’s statement in Khartoum, at the end of his long meeting with Meriam Ibrahim, the young Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy and then acquitted by the Sudanese Court of Appeal. “We chose the road of discretion and dialogue, with due respect for the Sudanese institutions and judicial system. And our choice proved to be the right one”.
According to diplomatic sources, and in line with the Italian government’s actions over the last two months, Pistelli’s visit should play a decisive part in reaching a positive outcome for Meriam.
During his visit – the highest-level visit by a member of the Italian Government and European Union to Sudan for nearly 3 years – Pistelli raised the question of Meriam’s release in all of his meetings with representatives of the Sudanese institutions. He discussed her case with the First Vice President, Bakri Hassan Saleh, Foreign Minister Ali Karti, and the assistant to the President, Ibrahim Ghandour. “They all said they were willing to cooperate to reach a positive and, I repeat, speedy solution to the case”.
The agenda for Pistelli’s meetings with the Sudanese leaders also included the national reconciliation process and the situation in conflict areas, most notably Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile region. The focus here was on Italy and the European Union’s contribution to stability, peace and development in Sudan. The talks also touched on developments in the region as a whole, and in particular on the crisis in South Sudan.
The importance of consolidating and developing bilateral relations and economic-commercial cooperation was stressed. This is particularly true in light of EXPO 2015 and the notable potential for collaboration by Italian and Sudanese companies, especially in the agriculture and agri-industrial sectors.
Deputy Minister Pistelli’s visit also provided an opportunity to examine Italian Development Cooperation initiatives in Sudan. In the “Country of the Two Niles”, Italy is financing an important package of bilateral and multilateral initiatives. To see for himself the role played by Italian cooperation and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Pistelli visited the “Salam” cardiac-surgery hospital run by Emergency, an NGO. At this Italian hospital, one of the African continent’s most outstanding, he met the founder of Emergency, Gino Strada.
At the multilateral level, the European Union has entrusted Italy with running its health sector improvement programme in North-East Sudan This is the first such EU-funded programme managed by an Italian Embassy in what is one of the poorest regions on the planet.