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Italy hails Egypt as strategic partner

Staff writer |
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi hailed Egypt as a "strategic partner" of Italy and Europe in the latest sign of Cairo's rehabilitation on the international stage.

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Renzi was speaking after hosting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the opening day of a trip to Italy and France that marks the former general's first official visit to Europe.

"Italy is absolutely convinced that the Mediterranean is not the frontier but the heart of Europe and Egypt must be considered a strategic partner in addressing together the problems of this area," Renzi said.

"The only way to avoid an escalation of them is through very strong cooperation between Egypt and Europe."

Renzi announced he would be sending a major trade delegation to Cairo in February in an effort to boost the two countries' economic ties and also said there would be annual high-level meetings to address issues of mutual concern.

Chief among these is the descent of Egypt's neighbour Libya into chaos which has contributed to a surge in the number of refugees arriving in Italy by boat.

Sisi echoed Renzi's comments, making it clear he expected help rebuilding Egypt's shattered economy in return for his country helping to combat Islamic militancy, a role which has led to Western governments largely dropping their objections over the way the president came to power and his crackdown on dissent.

"We expect a real reaction," Sisi said. "Real support from Europe for Egypt in the upcoming period."

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