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Cairo understands Moscow’s decision to suspend air service — Egyptian minister

November 06, 2015, 21:10 UTC+3

Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou hopes the decision will be revised

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© Alexander Demyanchuk/TASS

CAIRO, November 6. /TASS/. Cairo accepts understandingly Russia’s decision to suspend air service with Egypt, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou told TASS on Friday.

"Russia’s position is clear. Moscow has solid grounds to act this way," he said. "We understand that, as we understand the circumstances this decision has been taken in. We hope the situation will mend in the near future, which is in the interests of both countries."

He said Cairo was not yet ready to comment on the situation. "The cabinet, the ministers and our ambassador to Russia are assessing the situation," he noted.

He said he hoped this decision would be revised. "In any case, we, on our part, are ready to offer any possible help and support any initiatives and ideas on that subject that would be advanced by our Russian friends so that we could live through this difficult period," he said.

Zazou noted that Egypt’s authorities are taking all possible measures to ensure security of tourists.

"The Egyptian authorities are taking all necessary measures to ensure security of tourists," he pledged. "Such measures have only been enhanced in the recent period. We are ready to invite any side to make sure that additional measures have been taken, which proves we are doing our best to ensure safety of all our guests, including, of course, Russian tourists."

Zazou said that the situation in Egypt’s tourism sector was very bad. "The situation in the sphere of tourism in Egypt is difficult, unfavorable," he said. "Most of Egypt’s tourists are Russians and Britons. Russia ranks first in terms of tourist flows. It is followed by the United Kingdom. And these two countries have suspended flights, so the situation is very difficult, especially in Sharm el-Sheikh."

The Egyptian minister said he had not postponed his visit to Russia due to take place on November 17. "My visit to Russia planned for November 17 is still on the agenda," Zazou told TASS. "We plan to discuss a wide range of issues, to meet with Russian officials, representatives of big travel companies, to discuss measures to strengthen out ties in the sphere of tourism, to promote Egypt resorts on the Russian market. All this is on the visit’s agenda, but let us wait a couple of days until the situation after the decision taken by the Russian top officials today is clear. We hope we will be able to continue joint work."

Earlier on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with recommendations of the National Anti-terrorist Committee to suspend air service with Egypt until the causes of the A321 plane crash were identified. According to presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov, flights to Egypt will be suspended until proper level of security is ensured. Putin also issued instructions to help Russians vacationing in Egypt return home.

According to Russia’s Tourism Agency (Rostourism), about 45,000 Russians are currently staying in Egypt.

An A321 passenger jet of Russia’s Kogalymavia air carrier (flight 9268) bound to St. Petersburg crashed on October 31 some 30 minutes after the takeoff from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh. It fell down 100 kilometers south of the administrative center of North Sinai Governorate, the city of Al-Arish. The plane was carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members. There were four Ukrainian and one Belarusian nationals among the passengers. None survived.

Over several days three countries - Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands - have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh on the suspicion the A321 jet crashed after a bomb explosion on board. There have been no official confirmations yet. Russia’s forensic examinations centre earlier said that Russian and Egyptian experts examined the passengers’ bodies to find no traces of a bomb impact yet so far.

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