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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Are Russian planes about to return to Sharm and Hurghada?

** #3 – Are the Ruskies finally restoring flights to Sharm and Hurghada? President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are reportedly set to reach an agreement that would allow the resumption of direct flights between Russia and Red Sea destinations including Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada when they meet in Moscow today, according to a State Information Service (SIS) statement (pdf). The statement provides few further details, but suggests that the two countries have already reached common ground and that El Sisi and Putin will be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

A long time in the making: We’ve had our fingers crossed since August that the Russians could be making a comeback to Hurghada and Sharm after Russian tour companies began kicking the tires on travel packages to offer once flights resume. Direct air travel between Cairo and Moscow resumed last April, following protracted negotiations over security concerns after the 2015 Metrojet crash.

Putin and El Sisi are also expected to discuss military cooperation, according to Russia’s TASS. Trade ties and the latest developments at Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear plant (being built by Rosatom) and the Russian Industrial Zone will also be on the agenda.

El Sisi and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev touched on some of these issues when they met yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement. The president also visited the Federation Council, where he delivered a speech on a wide range of topics, from bilateral ties to ideological and religious extremism and the political course in Libya and Syria, according to a readout of the speech.

The Moscow trip is getting end-to-end coverage in the domestic press. It is front-page news Al Ahram, the government-controlled newspaper of record, and dominated the airwaves on talk shows last night. Masaa DMC’s Osama Kamal zeroed in on the potential resumption of direct air service to Sharm and Hurghada (watch, runtime: 9:10), while Cairo University Political Science Professor Moataz Abdel Fattah spoke with Hona Al Asema about what he said was Russia’s increasingly important regional role (watch, runtime: 8:14). Yahduth fi Masr’s Sherif Amer noted that El Sisi’s address to the Russian Federation Council was the first ever to that body by a visiting head of state (watch, runtime: 5:25).

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