Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry (R) and UK Foreign Secretary Borris Johnson (L) during a Cairo meeting (Photo Courtesy of Egypt foreign ministry)
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told his British counterpart on Saturday that the UK's continued suspension of direct flights to Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh resort city was “unjustified and incomprehensible.”
Shoukry made the comments during a meeting with the UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who visited Egypt for the first time as foreign secretary last week to boost Egypt-UK relations, and hold talks on several regional issues of common interest.
In an official statement by Egypt’s foreign ministry on Saturday, spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said Shoukry pointed to Cairo's major accomplishments in improving airport security, according to measures agreed on by the two countries and international standards of airport security.
“A continuation of flight suspension to Egyptian tourist destinations despite the progress made in airport security is unjustified and affects the core of the economy and the main source of living for millions of citizens who rely on the sector's revenues,” Shoukry said.
He described the British decision as inconsistent with Britain’s repeated promises to support Egypt.
The UK has repeatedly stated its support for Egypt, especially in the field of fighting terrorism. In statements ahead of his visit, Johnson described Britain as a “longstanding friend” and a “champion of a renewed Egypt."
Egyptian tourism, a pillar of the country's economy and a key source of hard currency, has taken a blow since the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Sinai October 2015, which left all 224 passengers dead.
Sharm El-Sheikh's economy is believed to have suffered the most, especially following Moscow's suspension of direct flights to Egypt in November 2015.
The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for downing the plane.
Egyptian investigations into the cause of the crash are still on-going.
A number of European countries that had suspended flights to Sharm El-Sheikh in 2015 have since lifted their suspensions. The UK -- a major source of tourists for Egypt -- has yet to follow suit. Russia has also yet to lift its flight ban, despite numerous inspectations of Egyptian airports by Russian aviation security experts.
Egypt’s revenues from tourism dropped from $6.1 billion in 2015 to $3.4 billion in 2016, according to statements by Central Bank of Egypt Governor Tarek Amer in January.