Egypt, Italy agree on continued cooperation over illegal migration, Libyan crisis

Menna Alaa El-Din, Sunday 5 Aug 2018

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) during a meeting with his Italian counterpart Enzo Milanesi on Sunday 5 August (Photo: Egypt's FM spokesperson Facebook page)

In the first visit by an Italian foreign minister to Cairo since 2015, Egyptian and Italian foreign ministers agreed on Sunday to continue cooperation in combating illegal immigration and resolving the Libyan issue through a Libyan-Libyan solution.

In a joint press conference following “political consultation” talks between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, the two dignitaries said that the discussions between their countries represented “a keenness on recovering the momentum of relations between Egypt and Italy.”

Speaking on the Libyan issue, Shoukry said both countries agree on moving forward with the UN envoy to Libya’s plan for a Libyan-Libyan resolution that preserves the unity of the country and its institutions and people.

“Egypt welcomes cooperating with Italy in reaching a comprehensive format that would accomplish political stability and security in Libya, while re-establishing Libyan state institutions and facilitating parliamentary and presidential elections as soon as possible,” said Shoukry.

“We need to ensure fruitful results in Libya. The elections in Libya are a turning point, because the Libyan people will have a say,” added Milanesi.

According to a statement by Egypt’s foreign ministry, the ministers also had detailed discussions regarding illegal migration and the influx of refugees to the Mediterranean region, calling it an issue that should be dealt with “inclusively”, while also mentioning Egypt’s efforts to block attempts of illegal immigration from its coastline since the sinking of a migrant in September 2016.

Shoukry also spoke of Milanesi’s treatment of the regional issue from a “humanitarian perspective”, while also rejecting any solutions related to establishing camps for refugees.

“We believe in the importance of our joint efforts in facing this dilemma and we have taken steps in aiding in the development of countries where illegal immigration originates,” Milanesi said.

Milanesi also described Egypt’s experience in dealing with illegal immigration as “very good”, adding that there were lessons to be learned from it.

He said he and Shoukry discussed combating terrorism, describing it as phenomena that has lasted for years and strongly affects Mediterranean countries.

Investment opportunities in Egypt were also discussed, including recent mammoth oil discoveries in Egypt’s Zohr Field by Italian energy company Eni.

“The existing cooperation between Egypt and Italy’s Eni has helped in speeding up steps of cooperation between the two countries,” said Shoukry.

He added that oil discoveries in Egypt, including through partnerships with Cyprus, Greece, and Italy, benefits all sides in the region.

Italy ranks second in terms of European trade partners with Egypt with a trade exchange of EGP 98 billion ($5.5 billion), and is the fifth largest investor in Egypt with total investments worth EGP 32 billion ($1.8 billion), according to an Egyptian foreign ministry statement.  

Shoukry also hailed special cooperation between both countries’ judicial authorities in the investigation into the death of murdered student Giulio Regeni.

Shoukry said Italy was an important partner for Egypt, describing the relationship as one that once “faced a challenge”, but said both countries were working on overcoming and boosting relations.

Egypt and Italy have been seeking to improve relations, which experienced tensions in 2016 when Italy recalled its ambassador over transparency concerns in the investigation into the murder of Regeni in Cairo earlier that year.

The Italian ambassador returned to Cairo in September 2017 and the two countries continue to cooperate to determine the circumstances behind Regeni's murder.

Milanesi said that the discussions between the ministers on the Regeni case showed a strong willingness to achieve “concrete results” in the investigations.

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