The Russian government has approved an aviation safety protocol with Egypt to monitor the achievement of airport safety measures, as part of a series of measures to pave the way for the restoration of flights between the two countries after over a year’s suspension, Russian news agency TASS reported on Friday.
"The date of the resumption of flights depends on the accomplishment of aviation safety requirements by the Egyptian side," a cabinet decree signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was reported as saying by the state news agency.
Russia has carried out a series of inspections of Egyptian airports since the suspension in October 2015, when a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh, killing all 224 on board.
Egypt's civil aviation minister, Sherif Fathy, is slated to sign the bilateral agreement during a visit to Moscow, the final date of which has not yet been announced.
Speaking in December 2016, Russia’s Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said flights would “most likely” resume in January 2017.
In January, TASS quoted an unnamed source as saying that inspection equipment that Moscow has insisted be deployed in Egypt’s airports was not yet fully functional.
"The biometric equipment they bought for scanning fingerprints and retinas is not functioning yet. The equipment is still being installed. In Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh the equipment is running, but only in the test mode. After all the systems are launched another delegation of experts from Russia is set to arrive for a final check of the second terminal at the capital's airport," the source was quoted as saying.
Also in January, Sokolov said that Egypt’s civil aviation minister would sign the bilateral airport security agreement during a visit to Moscow in February, and that a delegation of Russian experts was set to inspect Cairo airport in the same month.
The team completed their visit in the first week of February. It could be the last such inspection before a partial resumption of flights.
Last week, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported Russian newspaper Izvestia as saying that a Russian parliamentary delegation would visit Egypt in March, primarily to discuss the resumption of flights.
On Thursday, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Cairo has improved most security issues to allow for safe Egypt-Russia flights, but Moscow believes that a few details remain problematic.
A number of European countries that also suspended flights to Sharm El-Sheikh following the 2015 crash have recently reinstated direct flights to the South Sinai tourist hotspot, although the UK, a major source of tourists, has not yet lifted its suspension.
The Russian Federal Security Service classified the air disaster, the deadliest in Russian and Soviet history, as a terrorist attack. It was claimed by local IS militant affiliates.
Egyptian investigations have not yet determined the cause of the crash.