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Egypt, Russia sign protocol on security cooperation with aim of resuming flights

Egypt and Russia signed a joint cooperation protocol regarding civil aviation security on Friday with the aim of resuming flights following a two-year hiatus after a plane crash in Sharm el-Sheikh, Russia’s Transport Ministry told the Russian state wire Tass.

Just days after a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Cairo, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy and Russian Minister of Transport Maksim Sokolov officially signed the agreement on Friday afternoon. 

Sokolov told the Russian Rossiya 24 satellite channel on Monday, during Putin’s visit, that air travel between both countries would resume in February 2018, although he added that this must first be agreed by Putin.

The Russian government pulled all flights to Egypt and all Egyptian planes from Russian airspace two years ago, after a Russian passenger jet crashed in October 2015 just 20 minutes after it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, killing all 217 passengers and seven crew members on board.  

While Egypt denied the crash was caused by terrorist activity, Russia’s Federal Security Service head Alexander Bortnikov said Russia halted flights to Egypt because a 1 kilo TNT bomb was detonated on the plane.

Russia recently sent several security delegations to evaluate security protocol at Egyptian airports, especially in Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada. Reports written by the delegations asserted that airport security was weak and made several recommendations, which the Russian government wanted to ensure would be implemented through agreed security protocols.

The details of the cooperation protocol have not yet been officially announced, but Russian media reported they include the use of biometric scans, video surveillance in areas adjacent to airports, and the designation of areas for pre-boarding searches, as well as further security measures between exit gates and aircrafts.

Previous reports have noted Russian concerns over the areas outside Egyptian airports, as well as security protocols for flight crew and others providing flight services, such as cleaning and catering staff, who allegedly don’t always wear the required uniforms or carry adequate identification.