Italian FM meets with Egyptian officials on migration, Libya

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CAIRO – Italy’s top diplomat held talks on Sunday with Egyptian and Arab League officials in Cairo that focused on regional security and the conflict in neighboring Libya, as well as bilateral sensitive issues. .

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said he raised with the Egyptian president the case of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student who was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in Cairo in 2016, and the case of Patrick George Zaki, an Egyptian activist studying in Bologna who was detained. for almost two years.

“I asked for and received a promise of strong cooperation on the Regeni and Zaki issues,” Tajani wrote on Twitter. Later in the day, he told a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry that Cairo is “ready to remove roadblocks” to resolve the two issues. He did not provide further details.

Tajani said his meeting with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also covered energy security and economic cooperation in the Mediterranean, but focused “above all ” on political instability in Libya and the efforts to stop “irregular immigration” from that country.

The Italian foreign minister also met with the Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit.

The Regeni case strained Cairo’s relations with Rome, with Regeni’s family and Italian authorities accusing Egyptian security forces of torturing and killing him. Egypt’s security services have denied involvement in Regeni’s kidnapping or death.

Regeni, 28, was a doctoral student at Cambridge University researching labor trends in Egypt when he was kidnapped on January 25, 2016. His body was found by the side of a road several days later with signs of extensive torture, the the kind that activists and rights groups say are widespread within Egyptian detention facilities.

Zaki, meanwhile, was released in December 2021 pending his trial on charges of spreading false news about Egypt, at home and abroad and has been unable to travel since its release.

Zaki’s arrest and trial became front-page news in Italy and sparked a wave of student protests there. For many Italians, his detention was a reminder of Regeni’s death.

In Italy, opposition politicians accepted Tajani’s argument that Egypt had given reassurance about the Regeni and Zaki cases.

“Tajani is not succeeding to tell the truth. Italy is not satisfied with the cooperation with Egypt,” tweeted Lia Quartapelle, a lawmaker who deals with foreign affairs for the Democratic Party. “Regeni’s lawsuit is blocked. Zaki is still in Egypt. “

The Italian trial ended without Egypt’s top security officials when Rome was prevented from officially informing the defendants in Egypt that they had been ordered to stand trial in kidnap and kill Regeni.

Quartapelle, who had served a special parliamentary commission in the previous legislature that was investigating the Regeni case, has previously said that Egypt cannot be trusted until full light is put on the young man’s murder.

Tajani said that his visit to Egypt and before Tunisia, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s visit to Algeria were part of Italy’s efforts to boost its energy ties in the region and more importantly stop a stream of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

“More must be done because the issue of energy is very important to us … energy costs are too high to remain competitive, even within the European Union,” he said.

Egypt, which hosts more than 6 million migrants, has been trying for years to block migrant boats from its shores. But in 2022 Egyptian migrants were among the main nationalities to reach European shores primarily by first traveling through nearby Libya before embarking on perilous sea voyages.

“The solution to the problem of Libya is part of the solution to the problem of illegal immigration,” he said, adding that Italy would receive “more legal migrants” including from Egypt, if Illegal scenes would be brought under control.

Libya has become a hub for African and Middle Eastern migrants seeking to travel to Europe, with Italy receiving tens of thousands each year. Rome has reached agreements with the authorities in the Libyan capital of Tripoli in recent years to try to limit the flow of migrants.

Libya has been in turmoil since a NATO-backed uprising ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country is now divided between two rival administrations. claiming legitimacy. Egypt is supporting forces based in eastern Libya while Italy has supported the administration based in Tripoli.

Associated Press writer Frances D’Emilio contributed to this report from Rome.

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