Until Tuesday he was the Italian Ambassador in Cairo, like Giulio Regeni a witness of the brutality of the Abdel Fattah el-Sisi regime. But above all, of the many false leads that have marked the investigation into the murder of the Italian researcher in Egypt, he is custodian of one of the worst Italian diplomatic crisis in recent decades. While formally still in Rome for consultations after being recalled on April 8, Maurizio Massari was appointed Tuesday as the new permanent Representative to the European Union. He takes the place of the new Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda, who held the position in Brussels — despite the name — for just two months. It is a promotion that has the flavor of a demotion.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced the news at the end of the Council of Ministers: “I am proud to announce that, based on the recommendation of Minister Gentiloni” — he clarified during a press conference at Palazzo Chigi — “the CDM appointed ambassador Maurizio Massari as chief ambassador in Brussels. In the meantime,” Renzi added, “in order to prevent leaving the seat of Cairo symbolically empty, considering the particular situation, to prevent even another day in the absence of the ambassador, we have nominated Giampaolo Cantini, a great expert on North Africa, as the new ambassador in Egypt.”
The new ambassador, however — unless Renzi has already decided to send the Italian ambassador in Cairo back after the small signal of cooperation shown by the Egyptian authorities — will still stay in Italy. Or at least until Rome’s demands for investigative reports and evidence are met. The last request was issued in a letter sent April 14 by Rome’s chief prosecutor, Giuseppe Pignatone.
Tuesday, along with prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco, he met with officials of the SCO and ROS. They went back to Rome after the summit held last Sunday with Egyptian judges. But Pignatone declared he does not know whether he will uncover the truth about Regeni’s murder. “I do not know. It must be clear that the investigations are conducted by the judicial authorities and the police of the Egyptian State,” he said, answering a question during a panel discussion at the Supreme Court. “We work as much as possible. It is Egypt’s choice to build a constructive partnership between the two parties. We’ll know at the end of the story.”
Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who according to Renzi sought and received the ambassador’s replacement, relies on the assessments of Rome’s prosecutor. “He has received new materials, new documents,” the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. “I saw they made a positive assessment of the method, namely that it has restarted collaboration. We shall see about the contents, but I know that the position of the Italian government remains very firm. We want to see the results before stating that things are going in the direction that we want.”
All the materials received in the last meeting scheduled by the Egyptian authorities to mend the breach with Italy are to be translated once again; it seems this meeting was better than the one held in Rome on April 7 and 8. The additional documentation would include printouts of another six cell phone users, out of the 13 requested, in addition to the five already delivered earlier this month. And finally, it may have even included reports on the autopsies carried out on the bodies of the five “criminals” gunned down by Egyptian police who were accused post-mortem of being involved in Regeni’s kidnapping. Italian prosecutors were never convinced of that lead.
Finally a promise: Soon the results should arrive of Cairo’s forensic examination of the clothes Regeni was wearing when he was found dead on Feb. 3, along the road linking Cairo to Alexandria.
In 10 days, when the translations from Arabic of all the material received should be completed, we will know if Italy — aside from consideration for all the new victims of the el-Sisi regime — will consider the diplomatic crisis over.