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Egypt accuses May over Sharm el-Sheikh flights ban

Published 18/11/2016

A ban was imposed on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh after a Russian plane crashed in October last year
A ban was imposed on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh after a Russian plane crashed in October last year

Egypt's ambassador has suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May is blocking the resumption of UK flights to Sharm el-Sheikh airport despite the implementation of security measures demanded in the wake of a suspected terrorist bomb.

Tourism to the Red Sea beach resort was devastated by flight bans imposed after a Russian plane crashed in October last year following take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh.

But Nasser Kamel said all EU countries apart from the UK have now resumed air links to the Sinai Peninsula town. It was "mind-boggling" that Britain had still not authorised flights a year after the disaster, he said.

Mr Kamel told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "When the accident happened and the UK decided to suspend flights, we had an agreement with the British Government to implement a joint action programme, under the promise that if the programme is implemented fully in three or four months, flights will resume.

"Egypt has done its share. We have implemented the programme, we have brought independent security firms to assess the situation. All EU countries have resumed flights to Egypt - including Germany, which does not take the security of its citizens lightly - and the only EU country which is not flying to Sharm el-Sheikh is the UK."

Mr Kamel said Egypt had invested millions of dollars in security not only at the airport but in the resort itself.

Asked what obstacle remained to the resumption of flights from the UK, he said: "It's mind-boggling, to be honest. When I talk to the Department for Transport or Home Office or Foreign Office, they are all for the resumption, so I think the decision is stuck somewhere higher. I think you should be asking that question to the Prime Minister.

"A very thorough robust Egyptian-British joint action plan with 27 different chapters relating to security has been implemented. The Department for Transport experts have been giving us the thumbs-up for the way we have implemented it. We have contracted independent security consultants from the UK to look at what we have done and they told us that things are A-OK.

"The whole set of countries, including Germany, who have done their own independent assessment have decided to resume flights based on the fact that Sharm el-Sheikh is not only safe but is being seen as an example of an airport that has improved over a very short time and become one of the leading airports in the world in terms of security."

The Foreign Office does not warn against visiting the resort itself, but states: "We advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The security of British nationals is our top priority, and we took the decision to suspend flights from Sharm el-Sheikh in November last year in the aftermath of the Metrojet crash to protect the travelling public.

"We have been working closely with the Egyptians to improve the security arrangements at the airport. We keep aviation security under constant review and will resume flights as soon as we can."

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