By BRIAN ROHAN, Associated Press
CAIRO (AP) — The planned resumption of Russian flights to Egypt over two years after they were banned by Moscow over security concerns has been postponed until April, Cairo airport officials said Tuesday, citing delays in booking procedures and the reopening of offices of the countries’ national airlines.
Modern baggage-scanning equipment has been installed and Russian security will be allowed to oversee operations in Cairo as part of the reopening of the route, initially planned for February, they said, hinting that the main requirements placed by Russia have been met and the reason for the delays could lie elsewhere.
The move comes as a setback for Egypt, which has hoped for a resumption of the flights for months, when its warm winter weather draws tourists from countries to the north, including what was once a large amount from Russia. Airport officials gave no further reason for the delay.
Moscow banned the flights following the deadly bombing of a Russian airliner. Its Transport Ministry did not give much of an explanation for the delay, saying only in a statement that “all political decisions” on the resumption of the flights have been made, and calling on “all parties involved” to speed up the planned resumption.
Egypt’s Islamic State group affiliate said it downed the plane over Sinai in October 2015, killing all 224 people aboard and raising concerns over security at Egyptian airports that dealt a severe blow to its tourism industry. Authorities have spent millions of dollars to upgrade airport security.
Since then, much speculation has been made in Egyptian media over whether resumption of the flights was being withheld awaiting concessions over trade or military deals with Cairo.
Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the resumption of commercial passenger flights to Cairo in January, after officials signed a protocol to allow direct Moscow-Cairo flights to resume in February.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to reporters.
Associated Press writer Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed from Moscow