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Egypt halts tourism with Iran, cites security concerns

Egypt suspends tourism with Iran over security issues, reversing Morsi efforts to improve relations

Reuters, Tuesday 1 Oct 2013
Iranian tourism
Iranian touristes in Egypt (Photo: AL-Ahram)
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Egypt halted tourism activities with Iran on Tuesday citing security concerns, a Tourism Ministry spokeswoman said, further distancing itself from Tehran after former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi tried to improve ties.

"At the moment the security situation does not allow the ministry to support travel with Iran, including flights and tourist visits," spokeswoman Rasha Azaizi said, without giving details.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Cairo in February, the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than three decades.

The first commercial flight between Egypt and Iran in 34 years took off in March as Morsi tried to normalise ties broken after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. The state news agency said 43 Iranian tourists visited Egypt in April. But regular commercial flights never got underway.

Morsi, elected in 2012, was overthrown by the army in July after mass protests against his rule. Azaizi said the Morsi government's plans to increase tourism with Iran had been put on hold.

Relations between Egypt and Iran broke down in 1979 when Cairo gave sanctuary to the deposed shah. Many in Egypt, a majority Sunni country, still harbour strong feelings against Shi'ite Iran.

The army-backed government views Tehran with deep suspicion. In July, Egypt accused Iran of "unacceptable interference" in its domestic affairs for criticising the military's removal of Morsi. Iran called the ousting of Morsi a "cause for concern" and suggested "foreign hands" were at work in the Arab state.

Egypt historically has much stronger ties with Gulf Arab states, who have vied with Iran for regional influence.

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