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Di Maio: “Rome will follow the proceedings. To do a dialogue with Cairo is essential» (Corriere della Sera)

« Egypt is undoubtedly a crucial country for the stability of the Mediterranean. If we want to defend human rights and find the truth about Giulio Regeni, we cannot ignore the relationship with Egypt”, Luigi Di Maio said last night on the Airbus A319 of the Air Force that took him to Paris from Pristina, Kosovo. Pristina was the last stop of a tour in the Balkans among icy winds, never completed buildings that seem to have been designed by children with a ruler, a landscape characterised by antennas, trusses and some white minarets. Never say never remains a fundamental rule in politics. So, the Foreign Minister of the Five Star Movement, in theory, an extremist compared to Matteo Renzi, now faces relations with Cairo in a more realistic way than the President of the Council of Minister at the time. In 2016 Mr Renzi recalled the Italian Ambassador to Rome without getting much on the end of the Italian doctoral student in Cambridge, massacred by Egyptian security. And now another student has been captured thus increasing the relevance of that case.

Minister, what news do you have about Patrick George Zaki, a 27-year-old student at the University of Bologna, arrested between 6 and 8 February while visiting his family in Egypt? He is accused, among other things, of “fostering terrorism and violence”, but as far as we know he is only critical of the regime of President Abdel Fattah al Sisi.

«A meeting between our ambassador in Cairo Giampaolo Cantini and Mohamed Fayek, who chairs the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights, took place a short while ago. The Embassy is taking all the necessary actions not only to obtain all the information but also to involve the so-called guarantee bodies».

Zaki’s family claims to have never been contacted by our Embassy in Cairo.

« The young man is Egyptian. However, beyond nationality, Italy is always committed to the respect of human rights. We have asked that Italy can follow all the steps of the proceedings ».

Zaki’s lawyer said the student was tortured, his non-governmental organization, Egyptian initiative for personal rights, also talked about electroshock.

«We are activating all subjects to ascertain what happened. ».

What do you answer to those who from time to time demand the return of our Ambassador?

«When I met the parents of Giulio Regeni, I said: our goal is to reactivate the meetings between Cairo and Rome Public Prosecutors’ Offices. As of 28 November, last year, no meetings had been organised. On 14 January there was contact, and I hope that there may be others as soon as the new Chief Prosecutor is appointed in Rome. The presence of our diplomats in Cairo, of course, allows us to activate all channels. And we want not just personal effects, but the punishment of the guilty».

Upon the initiative of the Presidency of the Council, the supply to Egypt of two frigates «Fremm» by Fincantieri was planned. Worth, one billion two hundred million. At what point is the agreement?  

«The government has made no decision. There is a negotiation between Fincantieri and Egypt. If there are orders from the past and products are coming in now, we cannot respond. However, the sales contract has never been signed».

Could blocking the sale of these ships, as the French competition hopes, be self-defeating? Or does it increase the chances of influencing Cairo’s choices?  

« These are not the terms of Italy when it is faced with another country ».

With more than 104 million inhabitants, Egypt, which has undoubtedly upset rights and violated freedom within its borders, is the most populated of the Arab countries. It is the third most populated of all Africa. All every direction its borders are on edge with crucial lands: towards Israel and the Gaza Strip it is a state that strongly contributes to fight the Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; towards Libya it supports the controversial General Khalifa Haftar; Sudan also has its problems. What kind of relations is Italy aiming at?

« We need to open a dialogue with Egypt. On Libya, we did so at the recent Berlin Conference, and we will do it again on Sunday in Munich at the follow-up meeting».