Egyptian official rejects presence of Russian security experts at airports

The chairman of the Egyptian Airports Company, Adel Mahgoub, has rejected the terms set by Russia for the resumption of passenger flights to Egypt, including the presence of Russian security experts permanently stationed at Egyptian airports.
His comments seem to conflict with an agreement reached between the Egyptian and Russian governments regarding the resumption of tourist flights between the two nations.
"The idea is completely unacceptable, because it violates Egypt's sovereignty," said Mahgoub in a statement on Thursday, adding that Russia has the right to provide security experts on board of its planes only, not at Egyptian airports.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in an interview with RIA Novosti that Egypt had agreed to all of Russia's proposals and recommendations regarding airport security after the downing of a Russian plane over Sinai on October 31. All 224 people on board the passenger jet were killed, most of them Russian tourists.
According to Russia's Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, Russia aims to send experts to work permanently in securing Egyptian airports and to monitor the implementaion of security measures.

In rejecting the Russian proposal, Mahgoub pointed out that the level of security at Egyptian airports has been praised by many international security inspectors who visited Egypt in recent months.

EgyptAir and Aeroflot are due to resume flights between Moscow and Cairo in April, according to Civil Aviation Ministry sources. However, Russian flights to Egyptian resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh are not expected to restart any time soon.

Egypt has been seeking to tighten airport security measures since the incident in late October, which Russia says was caused by a terrorist bomb. The tragedy resulted in a halt to passenger flights by Russia and the United Kingdom, with disastrous consequences for the already faltering Egyptian tourism industry.

While Egyptian officials initially avoided suggesting that the event was a terrorist attack, Russian officials later confirmed that a terrorist bomb was to blame, pointing the finger at Islamist militants. In late February, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a speech that the plane had indeed been brought down in a terrorist attack.

"Whoever downed the Russian plane, what did he mean? He meant to hit tourism, and to hit relations with Russia," said Sisi.

In response to the incident, the Egyptian government invited security experts from several nations to inspect security arrangements, while making a deal with British security firm Control Risks for an overhaul of airport security operations.

The website of the London-based firm Control Risks describes the company's operations as follows: "We support clients by providing strategic consultancy, expert analysis and in-depth investigations through to handling sensitive political issues and providing practical on the ground protection and support."

Some of the key staff members of Control Risks previously worked as military and intelligence officers, including former officers in the British Army and special forces.

Egypt announced the deal with Control Risks at a press conference in December. The announcement was made by Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou, Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal and Control Risks regional chief executive Andreas Carleton-Smith, who was previously a commissioned officer in the Special Air Service, the best-known of Britain's special-forces units.

Meanwhile, Russia has insisted that it needs its own hands-on presence within Egypt's airport security system, apparently not content to leave security matters entirely to other nations, including Britain, after October's tragic air disaster.

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