Italy reinstates ambassador in Cairo

Italian ambassador returns to Cairo despite Regeni controversy.

Italy's new ambassador to Egypt, Giampaolo Cantini, took office in Cairo on 14 September following a year and a half during which Italy had no envoy in the Egypt.

Cantini's predecessor Maurizio Massari was recalled in April 2016 in relation to the murder of Italian postgraduate student Giulio Regeni, whose tortured body was found in a Cairo suburb in January 2016, and whose death is the subject of an extensive investigation.

Egypt has denied suggestions that its security forces were involved in the death of Regeni, a 28-year-old who was in Egypt conducting research for his doctoral thesis on Egyptian labour rights and underground trade unions.

Italian foreign minister Angelino Alfano has said that Cantini's appointment aims to “reinforce Italian demands to reach the truth” regarding the Regeni case. Meanwhile Cantini's counterpart, Egypt’s new ambassador to Italy, Hesham Badr, took up his position in Rome on 15 September.

Cantini has been promised direct access to Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in relation to the Regeni investigation, ahead of an expected meeting between Italian and Egyptian prosecutors in late September.

The withdrawl of Cantini's predecessor Massari last spring followed Italian claims that Egypt was not cooperating in the quest for truth over the Regeni murder. However Minister Alfano now believes that recent progress in the case calls for a return of high-level political and diplomatic relations with Egypt, which he describes as “an inextricable partner of Italy.” 

Italy also views Cantini's presence in Egypt as vital in terms of collaborating and sharing information on matters such as migration, terrorism and regional stability.

However the renewal of diplomatic bonds between Rome and Cairo comes as Egypt faces accusations from Human Rights Watch that its police and national security officers have al-Sisi's permission to carry out torture and arbitrary arrests against perceived dissidents.

Egypt's poor human rights record has also resulted in the US Senate voting recently to cut military assistance to Cairo by $300 million.
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