Egypt has been revealed as the tenth highest importer of arms, ammunitions and security information systems from Italy for 2018, according to a document issued by the Italian Foreign Ministry.
The purchase of Italian arms was found to reach a staggering €69.1 million ($77) last year, which is higher than all of its previous arms purchases from Italy between the years of 2013 to 2017, making it the highest ranking African customer of the country’s industry arms.
The document stated that “in 2018 Egypt ranked tenth in the list of countries importing Italian weapons in general, and the first in the continent of Africa, preceded by Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey, UAE, Germany, America, France, Spain and Britain.”
The London-based news outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed was informed by an Egyptian diplomatic source that “this number is also much higher than the largest arms purchases Egypt signed with Italy in the years prior to the January 2011 Revolution, which was characterised by deepening cooperation between the two countries in this field, with regard to the purchase of light arming equipment for police, riot police and central security”.
That same source also claimed that the reason for the huge increase in Egypt’s purchase of Italian arms is to satisfy the government in Rome and to compensate for the murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian Cambridge University graduate who was abducted and tortured to death in Cairo in 2016. Regeni’s murder caused a diplomatic rift between the two countries which has continued to this day.
The source added that “despite all the pressures of the left and right circles in the Italian parliament, and despite renewed claims since April to withdraw the Italian ambassador from Cairo,” the arms imports and increase in trade has been the primary factor in “preventing the deterioration of relations between the two sides.”
Both Italy and Egypt conducted their own investigations into Regeni’s murder, with Italy strongly suspecting that the Egyptian police and authorities were involved in the crime. The Egyptian government however has repeatedly denied the accusation and put the blame on the alleged agents of the banned Muslims Brotherhood movement who it says conducted the killing in order to defame the government.
Over the past few years, particularly since December last year, Italy has sought to interrogate Egyptian police officers who it believes were involved in the murder, but in May this year Egypt obstructed and delayed the investigative steps. Earlier that month, though, it was revealed by a source who had allegedly wire-tapped an Egyptian intelligence agent that the authorities conducted the killing based on the assumption that Regeni was a British spy.