Russia and Egypt have agreed to address the issue of resuming air links within the tightest deadlines possible on the condition security measures are observed, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after a meeting with his visiting Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on Wednesday.
"We touched upon the question of resuming direct air links between our countries in order to help build up tourist exchanges, which has reduced for obvious reasons," Lavrov said. "We agreed to restore air links as soon as possible, provided the highest security standards are guaranteed for Russian citizens. We appreciate the contacts that have been established and are continuing between the civil aviation services and other authorities concerned of Russia and Egypt with the aim to complete these procedures, which would make it possible to resume direct flights without delay."
"In the meantime, the Russian side has been taking intensive measures for opening a consulate general in Hurghada," Lavrov said. "This will be important for the sake of the further development of tourist ties. We will open the consulate general this year."
Russia and Egypt are finalizing at the departmental level a memorandum on the resumption of direct air links, Russian Foreign Minister went on to say.
"After that terrible terrorist attack [the explosion of a Russian passenger liner over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015 - TASS] our experts have contacted the Egyptian counterparts and met with the maximum cooperation possible," he said. "Specific recommendations were formulated. Our specialists are certain they will provide reliable security for our citizens who travel to Egypt and from Egypt by air. The Egyptian side has considered these recommendations and, as far as I understand, were supported in general."
"Currently a corresponding memorandum of understanding is being finalized at the inter-departmental level between our Ministry of Transport and the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry," Lavrov said. "We agreed that measures will be taken in order to speed up the process to the maximum extent."
Lavrov pointed out Russia was very much interested to see "this tourist itinerary, which has been possibly the most popular one with Russians, remain so further on," and "all problems that emerged in the wake of the terrorist attack settled as soon as possible."
"This depends on how the technical specialists will finalize the approaches that have been approved by both sides. They are to be translated into the practical language of the procedures being agreed on at the moment," Lavrov said.
Russia and a number of other countries suspended air links with Egypt last year after a Russian passenger liner crashed in the Sinai Peninsula. An A321 jet of the Kogalymavia airlines, carrying 217 passengers and seven crew, blew up in the air en route from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg on October 31. There were no survivors. As Russia’s Federal Security Service FSB found later, it was a terrorist attack.