UK lifts flight ban to Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh

Cairo, Oct 22 (AFP/APP): Britain said Tuesday it was ending a nearly four-year suspension of flights to Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh that followed the bombing of a Russian airliner claimed by the Islamic State group.

The move comes after multiple airport inspections and visits by aviation security experts in response to the 2015 attack that killed all 224 people on board the plane carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort.

“The UK has been clear that flights to Sharm el-Sheikh should resume when the security situation allows,” British minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Andrew Murrison, said in a statement released by the embassy.

“I am pleased that today we can announce the lifting of the current restrictions.”

The bombing had dealt a devastating blow to Egypt’s crucial tourism industry.

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The British ambassador to Egypt, Geoffrey Adams, said the decision followed cooperation between security experts in both countries.

“We will work closely with airlines who wish to resume flights,” he added.

Egyptian authorities welcomed the move.

“This step is a testament to the continuous efforts exerted by the Egyptian government to ensure the safety and security of every visitor in all of Egypt’s destinations, and in South Sinai in particular,” the tourism ministry said in a statement.

Egypt has gone to great lengths to lure tourists back, touting archaeological finds and boosting security at airports and around ancient sites.

The British embassy said the number of British tourists remained high despite the ban on flights to flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, reaching 415,000 visitors in 2018.

Russia, another major source of tourists to Egypt, initially suspended all direct flights to Egypt following the attack.

It resumed direct flights to Cairo last year but has yet to restart them to popular Red Sea resorts.

Egypt’s tourism industry has started to rebound in recent years with arrivals reaching 8.2 million in 2017 and 11.3 million in 2018.

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