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20.01.2012 Egypt

Italy-Egypt: Terzi, support for a democratic transition - Minister urges guarantees for religious minorities

By Italy - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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ROME, Italy, January 20, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- One year on from the start of the revolution, and a few days from the opening of the people's assembly, Italy sends Egypt a message of solidarity on its long and arduous road to democracy. A message that reiterates the importance of Rome's strategic partnership with Cairo from economic and cultural standpoints, while also urging, and obtaining, guarantees on the defence of religious minorities and of pluralism. With Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi's visit to Cairo, and the message he carried from President of the Republic Giorgio Napoiltano to interim head of state Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Italy reminded political and religious leaders of “the ancient friendship that binds our two countries” and our nation's solidarity with Egypt “on the road to democracy, justice and peace”. Minister Terzi's busy agenda of meetings included those with Tantawi, Prime Minister Kamel El Ganzoury and Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr. These interlocutors “gave me the clear sensation that they shared these principles in the very challenging endeavour to bring democracy to Egyptian institutions”, Terzi said, after a series of meetings with political and religious leaders in Egypt. “In this sense Italy's strategic partnership with Egypt is something that will help us to share the challenges”, he added. The visit also offered an opportunity to renew Italy's pledge to defend freedom of worship and religious communities in meetings with Copt bishops and with the Grand Muftì of Egypt, the second-highest spiritual leader of Sunni Islam. “I found the Grand Muftì of Egypt to be very open-minded and moderate, which is precisely in line with what we Europeans expect to encounter in the more cultivated and steadfast of the Islamic culture”. The visit was also an occasion on which to reassure the country's leaders that Italy, Egypt's top European trade partner, intends to contribute to its economic development. “Italian firms have stayed on in the most trying moments, and will remain to help the Egyptian economy grow”, Terzi confirmed, also announcing an immediate $100-million debt conversion to be invested in development projects. For his part, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr promised that Italian firms operating in Egypt, and Italian investors who decide to go to Egypt, “can consider themselves safe”. Finally, Italy is one of Egypt's top donor countries, with cooperation initiatives underway for an overall value of €158 million.

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