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Russia signals willingness to partially restore Egyptian flights

Russia is set to partially restore air links with Egypt after more than two years, though initially focused on flights serving Cairo.

Direct flights between the two countries were unilaterally suspended in November 2015 following the loss of a Russian-operated Airbus A321 shortly after departure from Sharm-el-Sheikh.

But during a meeting this with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo, president Vladimir Putin signalled a willingness to lift the ban, acknowledging measures to enhance security and flight safety at local airports. He cited work carried out by the Egyptian authorities which has cleared the way for the resumption of flights between Moscow and Cairo.

Before the halt of bilateral air services, EgyptAir and Aeroflot operated as designated carriers, each with three weekly frequencies on the Cairo-Moscow route.

Russian transport minister Maksim Sokolov expects an amended air agreement to be concluded within a few days. "It must be only aligned with the protocol requirements of foreign ministries," he notes. "We’ll wait for our [Egyptian] counterparts in Moscow to put finishing touches to the document this week."

But Sokolov notes that restoration of flights by Russian carriers to Egyptian airports other than Cairo remains an open issue and will need a special permission.

Sharm-el-Sheikh and Khurgada used to account for the bulk of Russian tourists arriving to the country by air. According to the state statistics agency RosStat, their numbers were 2.3 million in 2015 after peaking at 2.9 million in 2014.

Russia’s tour operators’ association says coastal resorts remain a major draw for them in Egypt and expects relatively modest demand for Cairo services.

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