Creating new perspectives since 2009

Egypt lights up Rome embassy in Italy flag as pressure builds on relationship

April 24, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Rome’s Municipal building is illuminated with the colours of the Italian national flag to show the fight against the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to curb at Campidoglio Square in Rome, Italy on 12 April 2020. [Barış Seçkin – Anadolu Agency]

Egypt’s Rome embassy has lit up in green, white and red, the colours of the Italian flag, in what it says is a sign of solidarity with the country’s fight against coronavirus.

The gesture, which is said to be in commemoration of Italy’s Liberation Day which falls tomorrow, is likely to be interpreted as another attempt by Egypt to smooth its relationship with Italy.

Authorities drew widespread criticism over recent weeks for sending two planeloads of medical aid to Italy amid a severe shortage at home.

Critics have said the aid was sent to Italy in an attempt to relieve political pressure that is being placed on Egypt to resolve the Giulio Regeni case and extradite top security officials to Rome so that they can be tried.

Italian student Regeni was found dumped by the side of the Alexandria-Cairo road in January 2016 having been tortured to death by what is widely believed to be intelligence officials.

READ: While praising Egypt, US calls on China to release political prisoners

Rome is also under political pressure at home to enforce accountability for Regeni and is said to be negotiating favourable arms deals with Cairo based on this.

In 2018 trade between Egypt and Italy hit $7.2 billion and Egypt purchased $77 million worth of arms from the European country with more deals in the pipeline.

The Italian oil giant Eni, worth about $6.4 billion, is developing the largest gas field in the Mediterranean off the coast of Egypt and it’s in Cairo’s interests to ensure this continues.

Renewed scrutiny over the Rome-Cairo relationship emerged earlier this year following the arrest and torture of an Egyptian student studying in Bologna in the north of Italy on his return to Egypt for a holiday.

Patrick George Zaki was arrested at Cairo Airport and is now being investigated on allegations of spreading false news and the misuse of social media. When news circulated that he had been arrested, speaker of the European parliament David Sassoli called for Zaki’s release, bringing further scrutiny on Egypt.

At the beginning of March, Egypt lit up its most famous tourist attractions, the Saladin Citadel in Cairo, the Karnak Complex in Luxor and the Philae Temple Complex in Aswan, in red with gold stars, the Chinese flag, in solidarity with China’s fight against COVID-19.

China is Egypt’s largest trading partner and a potential mediator in the Renaissance Dam negotiations with Ethiopia.

Giulio Regeni - Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

Giulio Regeni – Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]