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Russia, Egypt Working 'Shoulder to Shoulder' to Resume Air Travel

© Sputnik / Maxim Grigoryev / Go to the mediabankRussian Airbus A321 passenger airliner crash site in Egypt
Russian Airbus A321 passenger airliner crash site in Egypt - Sputnik International
Monday marked the anniversary of the crash of Metrojet Flight 9268. Speaking to Sputnik, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi offered his condolences to the friends and family of the victims, and stressed that Egypt is doing everything in its power to strengthen airport security and resume commercial flights between Egypt and Russia.

The crash of St. Petersburg-bound Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015 resulted in the deaths of all 224 passengers and crew on board, including 25 children, making it the worst disaster in the history of Russian civil aviation. The crash, since confirmed to have been a Daesh-inspired terrorist attack, led Russia and several other European countries to suspend all commercial flights to Egypt.

On Monday, speaking to Sputnik Arabic, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi stressed that on this somber anniversary, he would like first and foremost to pay tribute to the victims of the crash. 

"We have gathered not to talk about the progress of the investigation into the crash, but to commemorate its victims, one year after their deaths," Fathi noted. "From all segments of Egyptian society, we send our condolences to the Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian people; we want to say that Egypt is a peaceful, safe and stable country – and so it will be in all times."

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"I appeal to the relatives of the victims of the plane crash with all due respect and sympathy. Of course, nothing will be able to compensate their loss – their pain and sense of loss…I hope that they will be able to overcome their sadness in life," the minister added.

Prior to the destruction of Metrojet Flight 9268, Egypt was the single most popular destination for Russian tourists abroad. After the incident, all flights and tours from Russia to Egypt were suspended, cutting off a vital source of income for the African country's economy. Asked when the issue of returning Russian tourists to Egypt would be resolved, Minister Fathi explained that at the moment, "this issue remains between us and the Russian side, and we fully respect the decision-making mechanism of the Russian side."

"There are some things that need to be done by the Egyptian side, and others that need to be addressed by both sides, shoulder to shoulder. We are working in parallel [with Russia], with a maximum of cooperation, friendship and brotherhood. When the decision is made on the resumption of Russian flights to Egypt, it will be announced by both sides simultaneously," the minister stressed.

Fathi noted that Russia is playing a "big role" in helping to create improved security conditions at Egypt's airports, particularly though its experts' participation in the process.

The minister explained that Russia's role includes monitoring the process to strengthen airport security via the special expert committees that come to the African country to offer their advice. "The committees give us their feedback, and we accept this feedback, be it from the Russian side or from other countries; we consider all this to be positive, because our goal is to achieve the highest level of security at our airports," he noted.

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Russian security experts have provided their Egyptian counterparts with a series of recommendations for improving security. Over the weekend, the Russian Ministry of Transport indicated that a decision on the resumption of direct Russia-Egypt flights may be taken before the end of the year.

On Monday, extending his condolences to the families and friends of the victims of Flight 9268, Egyptian Ambassador to Russia Mohamed Elbadri stressed that "their loss is not forgotten and it will not be forgotten by the Egyptian people and by the Egyptian government." The diplomat reiterated Egypt's commitment to fighting terrorism, and stressed that Russian-Egyptians carry a "strategic" character, with regular commercial flights now "the only missing link in this strategic partnership, which we hope to fulfill in the very near future."

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