Egypt Minister Heads to Moscow to Finalize Flight Resumption

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(Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s civil aviation minister flew to Moscow on Thursday to try to wrap up an agreement to resume direct flights between the nations, more than two years after a Russian passenger plane was downed by a bomb over the Sinai peninsula, killing all 224 on board.

Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy’s trip, reported by the state-run Middle East News Agency, came days after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi hosted his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Cairo. During that visit, the sides also concluded a deal for Russia to build a $30 billion nuclear power plant in the North African nation.

The October 2015 downing of the Metrojet airliner shortly after its departure from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh battered Egypt’s all-important tourism sector, deepening a hard currency crunch the country was then battling. The Islamic State’s local affiliate claimed responsibility for the bombing, which led to a Russian ban on direct air travel to Egypt.

Putin said in Cairo that Egypt made good progress on safety, and other Russian officials said flights would resume about six weeks after the nations sign a safety protocol. The deal would include only direct flights between the two capitals; most Russian visitors to Red Sea resorts fly directly there on charter flights. 

Before the bombing, Russians made up a significant portion of tourists to Egypt, with many headed to Sinai.

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