Egypt parliament to review relations with Italy over halting of military supplies

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 9 Jul 2016

Egypt MPs said economic and political relations with Italy should be reviewed in light of Italy's recent 'hostile' actions against Egypt

Egyptian parliament
A general view of the Egyptian parliament during a working session in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016 (AP)

Informed sources disclosed Saturday that the speaker of Egypt's parliament, Ali Abdel-Al, has asked the heads of three parliamentary committees to conduct a review of Egyptian-Italian relations.

Abdel-Al's move comes two days after Egypt's parliament condemned in a statement a decision by the Italian parliament to suspend the supply of some military spare parts to Egypt.

Italy's decision came as a response to what it says is Egypt's failure to cooperate with Italy in the investigation into the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo earlier this year.

The Egyptian parliament's statement described the Italian parliament's decision as "an escalatory step" that could negatively affect the future of Egyptian-Italian relations.

Abdel-Al told reporters that "it is deplorable that this dangerous step on the part of the Italian parliament comes at a time when Egypt is leading a fierce war against terrorist organisations."

"We were also surprised that this step comes after judicial authorities in both Egypt and Italy were stepping up cooperation in a bid to unravel the mystery of [Regeni's death]," said Abdel-Al.

Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, the head of parliament's human rights committee, told reporters that parliament's three committees on human rights, foreign affairs, and national security and defence will hold an urgent meeting next week to consider a response to the Italian parliament's "hostile" attitude towards Egypt.

"This meeting not only comes upon the orders of speaker Abdel-Al, but also upon the request of many MPs who say that there should be a complete overhaul of all economic and oil agreements and all kinds of cooperation between the two countries, especially in the area of combating terrorism," said El-Sadat, who is also chairman of the liberal Reform and Development Party.

El-Sadat said the Italian parliament's decision will also negatively affect cooperation between Egypt and Italy in the area of countering illegal immigration in the Mediterranean and dealing with the fallout from the civil conflict in Libya.

"While these areas are vital to the security of the two countries, the Italian parliament's decision will do a lot of harm to them," said El-Sadat.

Mohamed El-Orabi, head of parliament's foreign affairs committee and a former foreign minister, left for Italy on Saturday to meet with the speakers of the Italian House of Representatives and the Senate.

"I will also meet with the chairman of the Italian parliament's foreign relations committee to convey  an important message to him," said El-Orabi. "We will tell him that the Italian parliament's decision will do a lot of harm to the relations between Cairo and Rome and this is not good, not only for Egypt, but for the entire middle east region."

El-Orabi  argued that "the role of parliaments is to contain conflicts and to build bridges of cooperation among countries... we wonder why the Italian parliament chose to move in the opposite direction," he said.

Al-Orabi added that during his visit to Rome he will also attend a conference that will be held by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean to discuss terrorism and cooperation among Mediterranean parliaments in all fields. 

El-Orabi said that he will attend the conference, which will be hosted by the Italian Senate, on behalf of speaker Abdel-Al.

Many MPs told reporters that they have asked speaker Abdel-Al to open a debate on Egyptian-Italian relations in a plenary session next week. Yusri El-Moghazi, an independent MP, said there should be a public debate to discuss "the Italian parliament's arrogant and hasty decision."

"The debate should not be confined to reviewing economic and political  relations with Italy, but also include opening the file of Egyptian detainees in Italian prisons and the results of investigation into the killing of many Egyptians in Italy in recent years," said El-Moghazi.

Ahmed Mostafa, deputy chairman of the Ethics Committee, said "the Italians have decided to use the Regeni case to exercise a kind of political extortion on Egypt."

"It seems that the Italians have decided to turn this criminal case into a political extortion tool, and in light of this fact the Egyptian parliament should react strongly," said Mostafa.

Tarek Radwan, deputy chairman of the foreign affairs committee and an MP affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party, said there should be an objective review for the relations between the two countries.

"We should work on containing the current tensions instead of adopting retaliatory steps," said Radwan, arguing that "the Italian parliament's decision will put Egyptian-Italian relations on edge and will only serve terrorist organisations that target the security of the Mediterranean countries."

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