Egyptian president urges Russia to resume flights to resorts

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi walk on embankment of the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is urging Russia to resume flights to Egyptian resorts

MOSCOW — Egypt's president urged Russia on Tuesday to resume direct flights to Egyptian resorts as he discussed ways to bolster ties with Russian officials and lawmakers.

Moscow suspended the flights after a bomb planted by the Islamic State group brought a Russian passenger plane down over Sinai in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board.

Flights between Moscow and Cairo resumed in April after Egyptian officials beefed up airport security, but talks about restoring direct air travel to Egypt's Red Sea resorts have dragged on.

Addressing the Russian parliament's upper house, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi emphasized that restoring the flights was essential for Egypt's tourism industry.

Following meetings in Moscow with top Russian lawmakers and Cabinet ministers, el-Sissi met over dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The two leaders have developed a close personal rapport and sought to expand bilateral ties, which have strengthened considerably over the past few years.

El-Sissi is on his fourth trip to Russia since taking office in 2014, and Putin visited Egypt in 2015 and 2017.

Egypt has signed deals to buy billions of dollars' worth of Russian weapons, including fighter jets and assault helicopters. When Putin visited Cairo last December, officials signed a deal for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Dabaa.

Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters that the two presidents will discuss the implementation of the nuclear plant contract, as well as prospects for the resumption of flights to the Red Sea resorts and other issues.

He said that el-Sissi will be offered a presentation of Russian weapons, including those which Egypt has expressed interest in buying.

Ushakov noted that bilateral trade rose by 62 percent last year reaching $6.7 billion and continued to expand at a swift pace this year.

Russian grain exports currently account for about 70 percent of Egypt's needs, he said

Ushakov added that Putin and el-Sissi will discuss international issues, focusing on the situation in Syria, Libya, Yemen and the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

Following broader talks Wednesday, the two presidents are set to sign a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty that would further boost Russian-Egyptian ties.

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