Egypt minister set to sign deal to resume Russian flights: agencies

Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy speaks during a news conference after an EgyptAir Airbus 320 plane was hijacked to Cyprus, in Cairo, Egypt March 29, 2016. REUTERS

Egypt’s aviation minister will travel to Russia to sign protocol agreements as early as Friday to allow the resumption of Russian flights that were suspended after the 2015 bombing of a tourist jet, Egyptian sources and Russia’s minister said on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo this week to discuss resuming flights and to sign a deal for a nuclear power plant as part of growing bilateral cooperation.

Two Egyptian sources said the minister would leave on Thursday for Russia, but did not confirm the date for signing the agreement.

The two governments may sign a deal on Friday allowing resuming Russian civilian flights; the TASS news agency cited Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov as saying on Thursday.

“We expect that he (the Egyptian minister) will come on Friday,” Sokolov said, according to the RIA news agency. Asked whether an aviation security protocol with Egypt will be signed, he said: “We expect that it will be signed.”

Moscow halted civilian air traffic to Egypt in 2015 after militants detonated a bomb on a Russian Metrojet flight leaving the tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and killing 224 people on board.

The bombing and the Russian suspension were blows to Egypt’s tourism industry, a key source of hard currency. The industry has been struggling after the upheaval triggered by a 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The return of Russian flights and tours could be a massive boost to tourist numbers that are still well below the 14.7 million visitors annually Egypt saw in 2010 before the uprising a year later and the unrest that followed.