5 Nov 2015

Egyptian Ambassador to Russia Mohammed El-Badri: There is no proof terrorist attack is behind A321 crash over Egypt

Egyptian Ambassador to Russia Mohammed El-Badri has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about the investigation of Russia‘s A321 air crash over Egypt, safety of flights over the Sinai Peninsula, the influence of the tragedy on tourist flow to Egypt and Russian-Egyptian bilateral relations.

Question: Mr. Ambassador, a horrible tragedy happened last weekend, the Russian airplane crashed in Egypt . What possible reasons behind the crash can you name? What reason dare you inclined to consider as the most probable? Do you consider the terrorist attack theory?

Answer: First of all, let me tell you that I don‘t want to preclude the decisions or the findings of the investigations that are going there. We have a strong investigation team with Russian and international investigators and experts working on this. We have found the black boxes and they are being analyzed as we speak. Therefore I do not want jump into conclusions as to the causes of this tragedy. But one thing I‘m positive of is that all military operations in Sinai against the terrorists are in a very small corner, in the northeast corner of the Sinai peninsula. It is outside of the trajectory of the plane besides the plane was 11 kilometers up. These are the facts. And I will leave it until the verdict of the investigation is made clear.

Q.: Do you think that the tragedy may have been the revenge of ISIL militants for the start of Russian air operation in Syria?

A.: Assuming that it was an act of revenge indicates that that was a terrorist operation. We have no evidence of this as I told you. We have to delink the two issues.

Q.: How thorough are passengers and luggage checked at the airport? Was the check conducted at the appropriate level on the day of the crash? Was one able to bring explosive substances aboard the aircraft?

A.: Actually, we follow strict international safety and security standards. Our airports are very highly equipped, our personnel are well trained and our level of security is high. The proof for this is that we did not have any single problem on Egyptian territory. That is according to Russian media itself.

Q.: Were there any remarks regarding the condition of the aircraft before the flight? Who was engaged in pre-flight checks?

A.: These are very technical questions, and I think you should ask them on the technical level. Besides we have to wait for the result of the investigations.

Q.: The Egyptian side is investigating the air crash. Is there any interaction with the Russian side? On what issues? When can the first results of the investigation be expected? And when can it be finished?

A.: We have received the Russian experts and officials including two Russian ministers and a full team of experts who are aiding us in the investigation, as well as international investigators. It has been all over the news and you can easily check it out. We have provided the Russian teams with all necessary help and assistance and we will keep on doing so. Russian officials have openly thanked the Egyptian government for its full cooperation on this matter. As to the time that the investigation will take, we have to wait until the investigations are over.

Q.: But what in time can it take to finish?

A.: This is up to the investigation team.

Q.: Is it safe to fly over the Sinai Peninsula ? Do Russian airlines bypass the peninsula after the tragedy? Are there fears on behalf of foreign airlines?

A.: It is perfectly safe. It‘s going on as we speak. All the international air companies are there with the exception of two or three. The rest are there, and they fly normally. Even charter flights fly normally. It is very safe there and there is no problem whatsoever.

Q.: Egypt is one of the main tourist destinations for Russians. Do you expect that the demand for this destination will go down after the tragedy?

A.: Of course there are some effects after this tragedy, which is a normal thing, mainly related to future reservations, but the flights are going on schedule as usual. Yes, it has been affected when it comes to the cancelation of future reservations. Not a large percentage, but nevertheless I expect that with time during the next or a few days Russian tourists are going to be confident. Egypt is the best destination, it is the best value for money and it is the place where Russians feel familiar.

Q.: Is it true that the Egyptian minister for tourism plans to visit Moscow ? What dates is such a visit scheduled for? Who will he meet? Does the Egyptian president plan to visit Moscow?

A.: Yes, this was a pre-decided visit before the trajedy. I have worked on it with him about 10 days ago and we are expecting him shortly. The minister of tourism is planning to meet all tour operators, the media, as well as the federal authorities on tourism in Russia .

Q.: And what about high-level visits?

A.: We have nothing in a very short prospect except for a meeting of the high commission of the two countries in December.

Q.: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has noted Egypt ‘s role in the Syrian settlement. Is it possible that a Russian-Egyptian center for coordinating actions similar to the ones in Baghdad and Amman will open in Egypt ?

A.: We have full cooperation with the Russian side on the issue of Syria . We are working hard towards finding a solution, and we will keep on discussing with our Russian colleagues means of promoting the Syrian settlement. I hope it bares fruits soon.

Q.: Does Egypt plan to buy Russia ‘s Ka-52 helicopters designed for Mistrals? What is the price of the intended contract?

A.: Let‘s wait and see how thing will develop.

Q.: When will Russia ‘s industrial zone in the Suez Canal region be created?

A.: Right now we have received two delegations fr om the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Cairo . They went and saw some allotted pieces of land. They are working on packages and terms with the Egyptian government, and we hope that by the convening of the joint high commission of the two countries before the end of the year, we are going to have a sort of an idea of how, where and when it will materialize.

Q.: What other spheres of bilateral cooperation, for example energy, have been developing actively?

A.: We have been having quite good cooperation with Russia gas and oil companies, especially Rosneft, and the Rosneftchairman had a meeting with President Al-Sisi during his visit to Moscow last August. We hope that this is going to be a sector wh ere cooperation between the two countries is going to blossom very soon.

Q.: What is Egypt ‘s chance to join the Eurasian Economic Union ? What advantages from joining the EU does Egypt see?

A.: We are working on it but not as members but on drafting a Free Trade Agreement. We have already started official talks about it. It will take approximately a year or a year and a half. We are expecting to have good results soon.