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Egyptian MPs visit UK, discuss lifting ban on flights to Sharm El-Sheikh

The delegation held a meeting with speaker of the House of Commons and the UK's security minister

Gamal Essam El-Din, Tuesday 13 Nov 2018
Egypt
Egyptian parliamentary delegation in UK
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An Egyptian parliamentary delegation led by head of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association Dalia Youssef arrived in London on Monday to discuss bilateral relations with British MPs and officials, including discussing the ban on direct flights between the UK and Sharm El-Sheikh.

The delegation comprises Osama Heikal, head of parliament's media, culture, and antiquities committee, and MPs Ibrahim Hegazy, Tarek El-Khouli, Mohamed Zakaria Mohieddin, Hala Abu Ali, Mohamed El-Sallab, Injy Mourad, and Yasmine Abu Taleb.

El-Khouli, a member of parliament's foreign relations committee, said in a statement that the delegation met Monday with Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow.

"The meeting discussed exchanging parliamentary expertise and the role of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association in fostering relations between Egypt and the UK," said El-Khouli.

"The speaker of the House of Commons expressed admiration of the fact that Egypt has been able to move forward on the road of economic and political reforms despite the huge challenges facing the country,” he added.

The delegation also met with the UK Security Minister Ben Wallace to discuss issues of mutual interest to the two countries.

"The meeting focused on Britain's continued ban on UK airlines' flights to Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh," said El-Khouli.

Many Egypt MPs have been criticising the UK government for refusing to allow the country's airlines to fly into Sharm El-Sheikh, three years after it imposed a ban following the crash of a Russian airliner which took off from Sharm El-Sheikh, killing all 224 passengers and crew.

Mohamed El-Masoud, a member of parliament's tourism committee, said that "while most countries – including Russia itself – have almost restored all flights to Egypt, the UK government still insists on targeting Sharm El-Sheikh."

"What is more irritating is that the UK  government has lifted a ban on British tourists visiting Tunisia – where a number of British tourists were killed in a terrorist attack in summer 2015 –  but still refuses to do the same to Egypt," said Masoud.

Egypt's ambassador to the UK Nasser Kamel told the London-based Travel Weekly that "as far as the Egyptian government is concerned, we have implemented a joint action project and upgraded security at Sharm El-Sheikh airport."

"The project has been so successful that the whole word, except Britain, has resumed flights."

Germany, which also cancelled flights to Sharm El-Sheikh but later restored them, sent more than 800,000 tourists to Egypt in the year up to the end of September 2017.

Samir Ghattas, a political analyst and an independent MP, told Ahram Online that "there is a ‘riddle’ about Britain's continued ban on air travel to Sharm El-Sheikh and UK security and intelligence officials have to solve it."

"In general," said Ghattas, "the performance of UK governments faces a lot of criticism in Egypt in two respects: showing high tolerance towards the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement's activities in England, and doing everything possible to harm the Egyptian economy, notably in the form of such ambivalent rejection to lift the ban on air travel to Sharm El-Sheikh."

Masoud said that "a lot of British MPs and officials have been visiting Egypt since 2016, promising to do everything possible to correct the UK government's position on tourism in Sharm El-Sheikh and Egypt, but once they return to London they say there is a riddle we can't solve it."

The Egyptian parliamentary delegation also met with Emily Thornberry, a Labour party politician and shadow foreign secretary, and Julian Lewis, the Conservative party chair of the House's Defence Committee.

El-Khouli said discussions with British MPs and officials also covered economic and political developments in Egypt and the Middle East.

"The delegation also met the leaders of the Egyptian community in the UK and conducted an open dialogue about internal conditions in Egypt," said El-Khouli.

 

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