By Mada Masr –
Italy gave the go-ahead for the sale of two Fremm frigates to Egypt for an estimated value of 1.2 billion euros on Monday, according to Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano. The approval for the sale of the two warships came a day after a phone call between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sunday.
The sale of the frigates is part of a much larger arms deal between Egypt and Italy that is still in the works and is estimated to be valued between 9 and 10 billion euros, which would make it the largest military acquisition in Egyptian history.
Conte, however, is facing backlash over the arms deal with Egypt given the lack of progress in the investigation into the 2016 murder of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni in Cairo. Italian prosecutors have been investigating Regeni’s killing in coordination with Egyptian officials, but after nearly four years, no one has been charged.
In response to the approval of the frigate deal, the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the death of Giulio Regeni “urgently” summoned Conte, with the chair of the commission Erasmo Palazzotto saying that “the government’s choice betrays the promises made to the Regeni family.”
Regeni’s parents also condemned the deal saying they feel betrayed by the sale of the warships to Cairo.
The 9 to 10 billion-euro mega deal, which was first reported in the Italian press in early February, includes six frigates, 24 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, 24 M-346 jet trainer aircraft and a surveillance satellite.
Conte submitted the deal for the Italian government’s consideration at a Cabinet meeting on May 28, according to La Repubblica. However, Conte was forced to table the deal following opposition from three political parties that form part of Conte’s coalition government. The opposition was reportedly due to the fact that judicial coordination with Egypt on Regeni’s case “hadn’t amounted to anything.”
A source from the Italian Foreign Ministry told La Repubblica that a decision on the arms deal “must be a joint decision that takes into consideration the general interests of the country and respects the demands of the Regeni family.”
Last year, Rome prosecutors placed five members of Egypt’s security forces under official investigation for their alleged involvement in Regeni’s disappearance.
This past December, an Italian parliamentary commission that was set up to review the case held its first session in Rome. Lead Italian prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco told the commission that Egyptian officials deliberately tried to mislead the investigation on at least four occasions.
In mid-January, Egypt’s public prosecutor Hamada al-Sawy announced that a new investigative team had been formed to look into the case. Sawy did not state why the new team had been formed, but an Egyptian official told Mada Masr at the time that the move allows Egypt to further procrastinate while appearing to make progress on the issue.
The official also said Italy may use the political pressure it faces over Regeni’s case as further leverage to secure more deals with Egypt, adding that there may be “some mega-economic deal to accommodate the Italian government.”