Russian officers to monitor Egypt airports as Hughada, Sharm El-Sheikh flights prepare for resumption
Egypt will allow the deployment of Russian security officers at two of its airports to facilitate the resumption of charter planes flying Russian tourists, which were suspended in 2015 following the downing in Sinai of a Russian passenger plane.
Moscow’s security officers will be deployed at the Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada airports, two important hubs for leisure flights, according to a high-ranking Egyptian political source who spoke to The New Arab’s Arabic service.
The source said officers will be assigned to specific locations within the airports and will be allowed to supervise the safety of Russian flights to the two cities.
Moscow suspended all flights to Egypt after a bomb by a local Islamic State affiliate brought down a Russian airliner over Sinai in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board. In 2017, it started flying to Cairo again, but direct trips to the two Red Sea resort towns have remained halted.
President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi discussed the resumption of air traffic during a phone call last month.
The approval follows years of negotiations and concessions made my Egypt, including an airport inspection conducted by a Russian delegation comprised of security and aviation experts earlier this year.
Moscow’s request to station its officers within the airports had initially been met with opposition by Cairo and regarded an assault on sovereignty and a potential threat to national security.
Egypt and Russia both concluded that the crash of flight 9268 had been caused by a bomb placed on the airplane before it took off from Sharm El-Sheikh for St. Petersburg. The Islamic State took credit for the explosion shortly after.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Seromolotov on Wednesday confirmed a previous report by The New Arab’s Arabic service that Cairo had allowed Russian observers into Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada airports.
Egypt "has taken all measures to reduce security risks, including those that derive from the pandemic, but Russia will retain control of issues related to aviation security,” Seromolotov said in a statement.
He said the full resumption of aviation links was the result of a collaboration between Russian and Egyptian specialists to improve security levels at Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada airports.
Seromolotov said the inspection had shown that Egypt has taken “all possible measures” to reduce the risks but that Russia will monitor operations “because the safety of our citizens is our absolute priority."
The number of flights connecting Russia to Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh are expected to be announced in the second half of May.