Moscow awaits invite from Cairo for final inspections of Egypt airports: Transport minister

Ahram Online , Wednesday 22 Feb 2017

Russian transport minister Maxim Sokolov said more time is needed to address concerns voiced during experts' February visit; definite conclusions on flights resumption not made

Russian tourists
File Photo: Russian tourists arrive to start their vacations at the airport of the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt November 6, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Russia is awaiting an invitation from Egypt to carry out security inspections at Cairo International Airport, in hope of it being one of the final assessments Moscow's experts conduct, Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told Russian news agency Sputnik on Tuesday.

"Of course, we are ready to come [to Cairo] again at the invitation of Egypt. But it is obvious that some more time is needed to address concerns voiced during the last visit. As soon as we receive such an invitation, we will send a group of experts again. We hope that it would be if not the last, one of the final inspections," Sokolov said.

On Tuesday, the Russian minister said Moscow had responded to all proposals made by Cairo and had already held two major inspections at Egypt's airports, pointing to several inspection visits last month at Cairo International Airport.

It is unclear what specific concerns were voiced during the last Russian inspection in the first week of February. However, Sokolov told Rossiya 24 TV Channel on Monday that Egyptian authorities needed to focus on working with staff at national airports, without providing more details.

"The most important point our Egyptian colleagues need to focus on now is working with the staff supervising aviation security and monitoring access to the airside and to the airport on the whole," he said, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Russia has carried out a series of inspections of Egyptian airports since it suspended direct flights between the two countries in November 2015. The suspension came shortly after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai in October after taking off from Sharm El-Sheikh, killing all 224 on board, mostly Russian holidaymakers. 

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for downing the plane. Egyptian investigations into the cause of the crash are still on-going.

Egypt has since implemented tighter security measures at its airports, including the installation of biometric equipment — one of the demands of Russian experts. The equipment has been installed at some airport staff gates in the Red Sea resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, and at Cairo International Airport's terminal 2.

Last week, the Russian government approved an aviation safety protocol with Egypt to monitor new airport safety measures — part of a series of steps to facilitate the restoration of flights between the two countries after over a year’s suspension.

Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy is set to sign the bilateral agreement during a visit to Moscow, however the final date of the visit has yet to be announced.

Egyptian tourism, a pillar of the country's economy and a key source of hard currency, has taken a blow since the crash of the Russian passenger plane. Sharm El-Sheikh's economy is believed to have suffered the most.

A number of European countries that also suspended flights to Sharm El-Sheikh following the crash have recently reinstated direct flights to the South Sinai tourist hotspot. However, the UK — a major source of tourists — has not yet lifted its suspension.

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.

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