Tension between Italy and Egypt grows after the decision taken by Minister Gentiloni to recall the Italian ambassador in Egypt, Maurizio Massari, for consultations. The latter left Cairo and returned to Italy. Sources from the airport of the capital of Egypt – we learn today – saw him going through all the normal security checks. Massari, who was greeted by an embassy official, made no comments.
The fact that the Italian ambassador in Cairo was recalled was only the first step after the failure of the summit, which had been held in Rome between the Egyptians and Italian prosecutors. It was announced by Minister Gentiloni who is ready to take new measures in the coming days. For his part, after 24 hours of waiting, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry expressed his “irritation” during a phone call with Gentiloni “because of the political orientation Italy is taking in handling the dossier”.
From Cairo’s point of view, the decision to summon the ambassador clashes with the desired cooperation in leading the investigation on the death of the young Regeni. Gentiloni himself clarified the firm line of the Italian government on this case, which is damaging the diplomatic relations between Rome and Cairo. He did so from Tokyo, warning that: “I always remember the words I used in Parliament, that is, that we are going to take immediate and proportional measures. That is what we have committed to do and what we are going to do.” In particular, he said, we “will be working in the coming days” on the other steps to be taken.
With the diplomat, they will evaluate the most appropriate measures to unlock a situation that the government does not want to become a case similar to that of the marines. Diplomats are working to find the path of dialogue, despite the confrontation between the judges on the phone records requested by the Italian part and denied by the Egyptian one (“it is a matter of human rights”, wrote the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in a statement released spread during the night), we are trying to avoid burning all the bridges behind us. From the Egyptian press leaks that despite the irritation, Cairo excludes, for the moment, to recall its ambassador in Rome, precisely to avoid a dangerous escalation.
Italy is working on involving more and more also Europe, as well as on incrementing pressure on Cairo. Tomorrow, Gentiloni will meet in Hiroshima, on the sidelines of the G7 of Foreign Ministers, High Representative for European Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini. “To talk about the best way to support Italy’s efforts in Regeni’s case”, sources close to the EU responsible revealed, recalling that Mogherini – although the story is bilateral – has already discussed twice the dossier and how the issue comes out at every opportunity in the relations with Egypt on an official level personally with Minister Shoukry.
The “new steps” mentioned by the Italian Minister could lead to precautionary measures for the Italians who travel to Egypt, starting from students and researchers like Giulio Regeni, and an interruption of cultural exchanges. On the following level, the Foreign Ministry might begin to discourage Italians from going to Egypt, declaring the country “unsafe”, a move that would affect heavily the already ailing tourism business. On a political level, you could opt for the freezing of the relations, (missions and consultations delegated to junior ministers or officials, not ministers) and, of course, the freezing of annual intergovernmental summits.