Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1304, (21 - 27 July 2016)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1304, (21 - 27 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Russian tourists expected to return ‘soon’

Parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Aal returned from a trip to Moscow upbeat about the resumption of Russian flights to Egypt and the building of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant.Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

After a four-day visit to Russia, parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told reporters that Russian-Egyptian relations are on the cusp of major development.

Abdel-Aal told Al-Ahram that he believed the investigation into last year’s crash of a Russian passenger jet in Sinai would soon be closed.

“Egypt’s Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek will visit Moscow at the end of July and will present the results of the investigation to the Russian side. I think flights between Russia and Egypt will then be resumed,” he said.

The Russian Metrojet plane crashed in Northern Sinai in October last year after departing from Sharm El-Sheikh Airport, killing all 224 people on board. IS-affiliated militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for bringing down the airliner. While Russia and other states have declared that the tragedy was a terrorist act the Egyptian authorities insist that final conclusions can only be drawn when the investigation currently underway in Egypt is complete.

A number of countries, including the UK and Germany, suspended direct flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh Airport after the incident. Russia not only followed suit but on 6 November halted flights to and from all Egyptian airports.

Abdel-Aal also disclosed that Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi will be heading to Moscow to explore the possibility of resuming flights between Egypt and Russia. Fathi left for Moscow on Sunday for a three-day visit.

Fathi told reporters that he is heading a delegation to review ways to resume flights. “Egypt had fulfilled 85 per cent of Russia’s demands regarding airport safety and we are now expecting steps to be taken by the Russian side towards resuming flights,” said Fathi.

Abdel-Aal said while he was in Moscow he noted that Russian officials were positive about the possibility of resuming direct flights to Egypt.

Abdel-Aal’s Moscow trip came at the invitation of Sergey Naryshkin, the speaker of the Russian parliament (the Duma), and Valentina Matviyenko, chairwoman of the Russian Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament). Mohamed Al-Orabi, head of Egypt’s Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Egyptian parliamentary delegation accompanying Abdel-Aal, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “discussions with Naryshkin and Matviyenko focused on two main issues: resuming flights and tourist traffic to Egypt and concluding the long-awaited nuclear power plant deal with Russia.”

After his meeting with Matviyenko, Abdel-Aal said he has high hopes that Russian tourist traffic into Egypt will resume “very soon”.

Abdel-Aal was quoted by the Russian media as saying that residents of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, the most popular destinations for Russian tourists, are now learning Russian.

“We are looking forward to support from Russia’s Federation Council in resuming flights between our countries,” Abdel-Aal told Matviyenko.

He noted that Egypt had promptly responded to Russia’s requests to enhance security at its airports. He added that the resumption of flights between the two countries “would be a good signal”.

Al-Orabi disclosed that the Egyptian parliamentary delegation was allowed to visit a Russian nuclear power plant 500 kilometres north of Moscow.

“The visit was arranged by the Russian State Atomic Corporation (Rosatom) which will be in charge of constructing Egypt’s first nuclear power plant in Al-Dabaa, west of Alexandria,” said Al-Orabi.

Mohamed Al-Badri, Egypt’s ambassador in Russia, told Al-Ahram that “the field visit included four reactors dedicated to generating electric power. These look like the four nuclear power plants expected to be established in Egypt by Rosatom.”

According to Russian media, Moscow will provide Egypt with $25 billion in credit to begin building the nuclear power plant. The loan is part of an agreement reached by the two countries earlier this year. Russia will cover 85 per cent with Egypt providing the remaining 15 per cent.

“Egyptian and Russian officials are still working out the final technical and financial details of the agreement,” said Al-Orabi.

“As far as I understand the situation, Egypt wants all the details of the agreement to be concluded ahead of the final signing of the deal and the construction of Al-Dabaa plant.”

Abdel-Aal also told reporters that Egypt and Russia are expected to conduct joint military exercises soon.

Saad Al-Gammal, head of parliament’s Arab Relations Committee, said on Sunday that Abdel-Aal’s visit to Moscow reflected the growing cooperation between Egypt and Russia.

“The two countries have moved beyond the crash of the Russian jet in Sinai last year. We now look forward to stronger cooperation in the economic, military and industrial areas,” said Al-Gammal. “Russia has also shown a lot of interest in investing in the Suez Canal industrial area.”

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