Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed Italian and European concerns that Egypt’s interim government is “too focused on security issues” during her meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy in Rome on Monday.
Emma Bonino hosted Fahmy on Monday, who was in Rome on the first leg of a three stop tour of Europe. The pair discussed regional issues including the Middle East peace process, the situation in Libya and the Syrian conflict, including the recent Geneva II conference.
The ministers also discussed domestic developments in Egypt and Fahmy highlighted “the success of the referendum on the constitution with considerable popular support,” said Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty in a Tuesday statement.
Bonino expressed her concerns over Egypt’s focus on security and “encouraged the Egyptian authorities to focus on the economic and financial reforms necessary for the Egyptian people,” said the Italian ministry in a statement. Bonino also “[promised] Italian contribution to growth through cooperation projects, especially in social development.”
Since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July, Egyptian security forces have cracked down on his supporters, arresting thousands and clashing with demonstrators almost weekly. Following the Morsi’s removal, in an attempt to restore stability a three month state of emergency was imposed as well as a curfew, which have both since been lifted. A recent increase in bomb attacks in the Greater Cairo area and other parts of the country has prompted increased security measures. The security forces are also involved in an ongoing campaign to root out militant groups based in the Sinai Peninsula.
The ministers also discussed ways to strengthen bi-lateral relations in various areas including politics, economy and tourism, said Abdelatty.
Fahmy and Bonino discussed the Syrian conflict and the Geneva II conference, which aimed to bring the opposing sides to the negotiating table. Fahmy explained that “despite the difficulties that have accompanied [the] conference, it is a positive step.” The Syrian regime representatives and the opposition representatives left Switzerland having not agreed on any issue, but the two sides sat face to face and discussed the issues for the first time since the conflict began in 2011. Fahmy stressed that Egypt’s position on the crisis has two tracks, firstly to pursue a political solution and secondly to deal with the ever deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Both ministers agreed to support United States Secretary of State John Kerry in his efforts to encourage talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. Fahmy said that the “viability” of the final status negotiations is in question due to “the lack of clear direction on the part of the current Israeli government to make any concessions.”
Bonino reiterated Fahmy’s invitation to a conference in Rome regarding the situation in Libya that aims to encourage dialogue between the government, the opposition and militia groups in Egypt’s neighbour. The pair “agreed on the need to combat illegal immigration and smuggling operations,” said Abdelatty.
During his time in Rome Fahmy met with Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro to discuss regional security issues. Fahmy and Mauro “agreed on the need to also strengthen military cooperation between the two countries, starting from exchanging information on illegal activities in the Mediterranean area and, in particular, on its southern shores,” according to a statement from the Italian ministry.
Fahmy also met with prominent Italian businessmen to “enhance bilateral trade and attract more investments to Egypt,” according to a statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry. During the meeting Fahmy “stressed the need to promote trade and economic cooperation between the two countries in the light of that Italy is one of the largest trading partners and has several investments in Egypt.” He highlighted “The Egyptian government’s commitment to fully overcome all the obstacles in front of any obstacles or problems encountered in Italian investments.”
Fahmy is set to travel to Germany and the Netherlands over the next few days. His tour of Europe comes ahead of a European Union Foreign Affairs Council meeting that is expected to discuss the situation in Egypt as part of its agenda.