9 Oct 2019 10:40

No precise dates for resuming air travel with Egypt, Georgia - Russian deputy foreign minister

MOSCOW. Oct 9 (Interfax) - There are no precise dates for resuming air travel with Egypt and Georgia so far as it is still necessary to thoroughly consider the provision of security of Russian citizens in those countries, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said in an interview published by the newspaper Izvestia on Wednesday.

"Many aspects of [Russian-Egyptian] bilateral relations were brought up [during the UN General Assembly session]; these include air travel issues, flights to principal holiday destinations of Russian tourists, such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada. The issue is being considered by experts in order to guarantee reliable operation of their airports and security of passengers. Our priority is undoubtedly the security of Russian passengers," Vershinin said.

"There are grounds to believe that the conclusion of expert consultations and arrival at a common ground, which will allow the resumption of flights on these routes, may happen shortly," he said.

"I'd rather not give any particular dates, considering that dates themselves are not so important, but we must ensure the security of Russian citizens with the assistance of the Egyptian side, which is traditionally friendly toward us," Vershinin said.

He answered affirmatively to the question of whether resumption of air travel with Georgia was discussed on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

"The issue was discussed. For now, I can only refer to the statements made by the minister [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] and presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov. This is an important problem. It must be resolved in the context of events that followed the decision [to suspend the flights]," Vershinin said.

"We appreciate the relations of friendship with the people of Georgia. Any step toward improving and normalizing these relations will be welcomed by us, but these steps will be taken with due consideration of all circumstances," he said.

As reported earlier, Russia suspended air travel with Egypt in November 2015 after a Kogalymavia flight traveling from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg crashed in Sinai. None of the 217 passengers and seven crewmembers aboard survived the crash. The Federal Security Service dubbed the crash a terror attack and said that a bomb was detonated on board the plane.

Air travel with Egypt was resumed in April 2018. Aeroflot and EgyptAir perform flights but only regular ones and only between Moscow and Cairo. The ban on charter flights to Egyptian resort towns is still in effect.

Another setback in Russia-Georgia relations was triggered by protests following the arrival of a Russian parliamentary delegation to the session of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy in Tbilisi on June 20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on June 21 banning flights of Russian airlines to and from Georgia starting July 8. Tour operators were advised against selling vacation packages to Georgia.

Regular flights between Russia and Georgia were earlier suspended in August 2008 after the armed conflict in South Ossetia. Flights resumed in August 2010. These were charter flights between Russia and Georgia, which were available until the resumption of regular air travel in September 2014.

Resumption of direct flights, which were suspended on July 8, has been actively discussed in recent days. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in New York that Moscow was expecting the Georgian administration "to promote normalization of relations with Russia in a responsible manner."