Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Mesharafa met on Friday with the acting Italian ambassador to Egypt, Stefano Catani, to discuss the incident of smuggled artefacts found by Italian authorities about a year ago, including 117 pieces belonging to Egypt, according to a statement released by Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid.
Italian Ambassador to Egypt Giampaolo Cantini is not currently present in Cairo, so the acting ambassador attended the meeting on his behalf.
The visit came based on the directives of Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry to understand all the facts related to the incident.
During the meeting, Mesharafa inquired about the identity of the Italian citizen who was arrested in possession of the relics, and he stressed the importance of ending investigations in the case as soon as possible to clarify the truth to the Egyptian public.
Mesharafa further expressed Egypt’s aspiration to cooperate with Italy on the case, due to the necessity, expressed by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, of returning the artefacts.
On his turn, the Italian diplomat confirmed that he has been in contact with the relevant authorities in his country in order to speed up the investigations, especially in light of the Italian side’s keenness to cooperate with Egypt on various issues of common concern.
The incident occurred in May 2017, when Italian authorities arrested an Italian citizen possessing a diplomatic container filled with smuggled artefacts. Italy informed Egypt about the incident in March 2018, 10 months after seizing the smuggled artefacts.
The delay raised concerns from the Egyptian government regarding the reasons, especially in light of the strong relations between the two countries, Abou Zaid said, explaining that that was the reason the meeting was held.